New Home for USA Football?

Way back in the year 2000, the Carr report suggested that USA football was a risk worth taking, in part because the support the City of Mobile would provide with the use of Ladd-Peebles Stadium. Now, about to embark on Year Three of college football, there are indications that South Alabama may be planning their next home.

The Jags have certainly benefited from the use of Ladd-Peebles Stadium. It has been available for use free of charge for these first two years and will be so for three more. However, there is a strong belief that USA will not be able to grow a strong fanbase, beginning with its own student population, until they have an on-campus stadium of their own.

While such a move might be thought to anger the City, the result might be quite the contrary. The Senior Bowl, easily Mobile's most high-profile event, was searching for a new location for this college all-star extravaganza just two years ago. The NFL and media professionals that make this game so noteworthy have been dissatisfied with the venue of Ladd-Peebles and made a push to to look for alternatives. Jacksonville and Tampa made strong offers, but the game was ultimately left in Mobile. The next time this happens, and there will be a next time, Mobile may not come out on top. What they need is a new, modern stadium that will satisfy all those in town for Senior Bowl week. The rumors are that Mobile has agreed to help USA in their move towards a new venue for this very reason.

If it comes to pass, where would this new stadium be located? The indications are that it would be in the area where Stanky Field and the Mitchell Center are currently located. This would require the track, softball and soccer complex to be moved to a different part of campus, and plans for this new facility have supposedly already been drawn up. The design of the planners is to make the the three major sports stadiums, Moulton Tower and Alumni Square the focal point of campus.

What kind of stadium are we referring to here? Sources claim to have seem plans for a 38,000-40,000 seat stadium that would be expandable in the future. A unique characteristic is a long glass atrium that would be built from the Mitchell Center to the stadium entrance. The price tag for such a building is being estimated around $150 million dollars. While the City of Mobile will probably not take on part of this load, the rumors say they will offer to help find low-interest financing by using their bond rating to secure it. That plus a strong fundraising effort will be required to get this project off of the ground. Of course a winning football program would help put paying butts in seats and assist in getting the note paid down.

The last question to ask is: When? These same sources feel that the stadium announcement will be part of the celebration of the 50th anniversary of the University of South Alabama, which will be in 2013. Coincidentally (or is it?), that also happens to be the last year of the five year agreement for the rent-free use of Ladd-Peebles. In 2014 USA will host it's first truly well-known opponent, Mississippi State. Having an SEC foe open this grand facility would certainly be a great beginning.

Some actual evidence that lends support to this story is the construction of a multi-level parking structure on Old Shell Road. While a nice addition, it doesn't appear to be something that was sorely needed. Currently, USA officials say there are no immediate plans to build a stadium. However, it seems nearly daily there are sightings of plans or talk of financing that come to our attention at JagsJungle.com. We certainly hope with all this smoke that there is some fire headed our way in the next year or two.

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