USA stadium could get City Council vote Tuesday

Mobile County
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The City of Mobile could vote on a $10 million contribution to the University of South Alabama’s proposed on-campus football stadium next week. The matter is on Tuesday’s City Council meeting agenda.

Mobile County, however, is unlikely to vote on its requested $10 million donation. The County Commission meets on Monday and the stadium issue is not on its agenda.

Thursday, County Commissioners discussed the proposal in a conference meeting and said a $10 million donation was highly unlikely.

“Ten million really wasn’t a figure any of us were really comfortable with,” said Commissioner Jerry Carl.

Whereas Mayor Sandy Stimpson claims the City could save money in the long run by supporting the USA Stadium, there seems to be no similar economic argument for County support. The County collects just a 1-cent sales tax and a 2-cent lodging tax. Neither sales nor lodging tax revenue would seem to be impacted by a move of Jaguar football games from Ladd-Peebles Stadium to an on-campus facility.  

“There should be a cost-benefit to any development project that we’re terming as economic development,” said Commissioner Connie Hudson.

Commissioners indicated Thursday that $2.5 million might be the maximum amount they would be willing to contribute to the USA stadium project.

Mobile County previously financially supported the USA football program, contributing $500,000 in 2010-11.

Five of seven city council members would have to approve the plan Tuesday for the issue to pass. So far, council members Bess Rich and John Williams have expressed the most concern about the plan. 

Stimpson says the city could save considerable money by paying USA $500,000 for twenty years. He says Ladd-Peebles needs $6.7 million in maintenance immediately and $33 million over 20 years. Stimpson’s proposal would secure free rent at USA for the Senior and Dollar General Bowls. The mayor then wants to tear down Ladd and build a small high school stadium in its place.

But the City’s decision may be a moot point if the County is not willing to contribute.

“We would certainly have to look at that, but in all likelihood, it would (jeopardize the project),” said USA President Tony Waldrop.

USA announced in June that it planned a 25,000 seat, $72 million on-campus stadium that it hoped would be ready by the 2020 season.

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