Stadium Mania

August 22, 2010 · By · Filed Under Football 

Erling Riis preparing to field a punt from Hargrave Military Academy in the Jaguars first football game.

On Saturday, August 28th South Alabama is holding their Fan Day at Ladd-Peebles stadium for the Jaguars final scrimmage of the preseason. Fans will see a different Ladd-Peebles than what they saw last season. The inside of the stadium has had a bit of a face lift for the Jags second season. Gone are the dull Grey and Green. Photos from outside show fresh white and blue in the stands.

But what is the future of South Alabama Football? How long will they continue to play at Ladd-Peebles? No one outside of the President and the Board of Trustees know right now, if they even know for certain. What we do know is that South Alabama yearns for an on-campus stadium. On-campus stadiums draw larger crowds and definitely exhibit a different atmosphere than off-campus venues.

Currently, the NCAA has a freeze on so that no schools can apply to become FBS (formerly Division I-A) schools. I think this was a contributing factor to South Alabama’s accelerated plan to full FBS standing in the least amount of time necessary. But could some new or stricter requirements be on the way to become and maintain FBS membership?

Currently, an FBS school must meet minimum attendance requirements of an average of 15,000 people in actual or paid attendance per home game. This requirement must be met once in a rolling two year period. Additionally an FBS school must have 30,000 seats in their stadium.

Some schools who have not actually met the requirement recently (as of 2009) but have not drawn the ire of the NCAA yet are Utah State, Eastern Michigan, Rice, Idaho, Ball State, Kent State, Buffalo, New Mexico State and Florida International. So could the NCAA be ready to enforce those rules or tighten them even further? Could they be on the verge of requiring larger stadiums for FBS membership too?

But with Ladd-Peebles sorely showing it’s age, how much longer can it keep South Alabama, the GMAC Bowl and the Senior Bowl happy? There were several months of unknown last year when the Senior Bowl seemed to be shopping the game around to other cities.

There is speculation that South Alabama may build a 30-35,000 seat stadium in the coming years. I think building one smaller than Ladd-Peebles now is futile. Why would South Alabama build something and not go all out. They have done fabulous with the practice facilities and the field house. Why would they build a smaller, yet nicer venue even if they plan for future expansion?

I think everything publicly will remain quiet for the next year or two but I firmly believe that you will hear an announcement in either 2011 or maybe as late as 2012 as to the school beginning to look for and design a stadium. I also think they would want the stadium finished in time for the 2014 season.

Why the 2014 season you ask. That is when the first big school is set to visit Mobile. Mississippi State will be visiting and I really don’t think they would be visiting to play in Ladd-Peebles stadium. We currently do not have a date for the MSU game in Mobile, but what better way to cristen a new stadium is with an SEC school as a possible season opener?

As to the size, I think it will be at least 40,000 seats and maybe as large as 50,000 seats if they can get commitments from the GMAC Bowl committee and the Senior Bowl Committee to contractually agree to play there for some number of years.

The size may be in reaction to or anticipation of rules changes by the NCAA concerning attendance or stadium size for FBS schools.

The next conundrum is where to build the stadium. There are really two schools of thought as to where to build it. Do you build out in Hillsdale where there is plenty of area and near the student dorms? Or do you build near the existing structures of Stanky Field, the Mitchell Center and the new Bell Tower?

If it is built out in Hillsdale near the Fieldhouse and Practice Field it would definitely have pleny of parking room but it would be in a remote location on campus. Building it between Stanky Field and the Mitchell Center would not leave that much room for parking in it’s current condition. I mean honestly, what is having a college game at home on campus without being able to have the tailgating experience near the stadium? What is the use of having the stadium if you cannot easily use it to recruit students as well as student athletes?

So my line of thought is that they must be seriously considering building it between the Mitchell Center and Stanky Field. With the addition of The Grove at Hillcrest and Old Shell Road and the current construction of a new dining hall in the same area and future plans for a large residence hall in the same area it leads me to believe that aging Gamma residence Hall’s might be in the sights of the bulldozer. Combine it with the parking that exists for the Gamma’s and Engineering it would be a great start for a parking area for Stanky Field, the Mitchell Center and a Football Stadium. Combine that with plans for a multi-level parking structure within a short distance from this area and parking would not be a problem.

The existing structures of The Cage (soccer field), softball field and the track could all be easily moved. Just the extra revenue from an on-campus football stadium and the average increase in attendance thereof would easily pay to move those structures. With relocation of Jaguar Track, The Cage and the Softball Field, the area would easily accomodate a stadium the footprint size of Bryant-Denny Stadium or Michigan Stadium.

Randy Kennedy has an article that is set to run on Sunday, August 29th in the Mobile Press-Register which may or may not shed more light on the subject.

So, in short I think hearing about an announcement of a 40-50,000 seat stadium to be build between Stanky Field and the Mitchell Center is not completely ludicrous. In fact, I think it is completely plausible and could come as early as next year and completed by the 2014 season. I definitely want to be one of the first people to pick up next Sunday’s Press-Register to read Randy’s article to see if anything I mentioned is similar to what he has to say about the subject.


3 Responses to “Stadium Mania”

  1. Batjag on August 23rd, 2010 11:05 am

    Nice write up, Brian. I agree with the idea that South should go ahead and build something larger than Ladd if at all possible. My gut feeling is that the crowds are going to start to grow quickly when we start bringing teams like Mississippi State and Navy into town.

  2. Riisey on September 22nd, 2010 10:34 pm

    I like this site and will have to come here more often. I really enjoyed the article and I agree with your take on the stadium. Keep up the good work and thanks for keeping us informed.

  3. Walter Davis on November 4th, 2010 7:52 pm

    I’m a little late, but I love the thought of South Alabama having a on camous Stadium. USA is growing by leaps and bounds. A football stadium would be very wecoming not only to the campus, but the whole Gulf coast area.

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