By: Richard Narramore | EIC
The University of South Alabama recently announced their partnership with Hancock Whitney, which means South now has the funds to build a $74 million on-campus stadium. The road to securing funds did have its hiccups though USA made it abundantly clear that the stadium would not be paid by student’s tuition dollars.
On June 6, The USA Board of Trustees voted to initiate phase one of plans to construct an on-campus stadium costing approximately $74 million dollars. USA President Tony Waldrop, Erdmann and The Board of Trustees stressed that funding would not be derived from student tuition or fees.
“What we continue to emphasize is this will not be funded on the backs of the students,” USA Director of Athletics Joel Erdmann said in an interview following the announcement. “This will not impact tuition or fees. This is something we will only fund that will only fund through external resources and that’s a lot of work but that’s the way it will be done.”
The Mobile City Council
USA sought financial aid from The City of Mobile in a proposed deal that would have provided USA with $10 million over 20 years.
Despite pleas from Mobile Mayor Sandy Stimpson, a proponent of the deal, the City Council voted 4-3 against providing financial aid on Aug. 21.
Levon Manzie, C. J. Small, John Williams and Bess Rich voted against the proposed deal while Federict Richardson, Joel Davis and Gina Gregory voted in favor of the deal.
After the vote, Stimpson tweeted, “I am disappointed with the Council’s decision on the USA Stadium. It sends a message to the NFL that the City does not support the Senior Bowl. It leaves Ladd Stadium with zero funding to create a facility that meets the needs of the neighborhood and high school football.”
Stimpson also tweeted that the Council’s decision left the Mobile city with no plan in solving a $33 million maintenance issue.
Manzie defended his position with a statement released on Facebook: ““At one point I had hoped a compromise was possible but without a clear plan for Ladd, no plan for revitalization for the affected areas, so many questions still unanswered and given the overwhelming opposition from YOU – my constituents, I voted against the proposal this afternoon.”
USA followed the vote with a statement to USA employees, students, alumni and supporters lamenting the decision of the City Council.
“We are disappointed by this setback, but we also are inspired by the outpouring of support from our students, alumni, employees and fans,” USA President Tony Waldrop stated.
“Hundreds of you contacted your elected officials and attended City Council meetings to show your support for the stadium project, and we thank you for taking your time to support South.”
Get-On Campus Campaign
After the City Council voted no, USA unveiled its next step in obtaining funds for an on-campus stadium — the Get On Campus campaign, a fundraising campaign aimed at securing funds from USA alumni, fans and supporters. The campaign was unveiled at a board of trustees meeting on Aug. 31.
By going to the website SouthAlabama.edu/GetOnCampus people can donate to help fund USA’s on-campus stadium. The website also keeps track of the amount of money donated to date and provides updates about the current progress of the stadium.
“The Get On-Campus campaign is our grassroots level,” Erdman said. “Any gift is valuable and desired and appreciated from $1 to $1 million and that campaign is going well and we continue to reach out to people and people continue to reach out to us.
On Sept. 12 The USA Board of trustees unanimously voted to authorize Phase II of the construction of an on-campus football stadium. This vote set the USA football team on track to play in the new stadium by 2020.
“The significance [of this moment] is monumental,” Erdman said following the board’s vote. “It’s basically permission to proceed with the building on the stadium with the assumption that we are within the financial parameters that we’ve defined. In essence, we are running as fast as we can to 2020 and we will work very diligently to get there.”
Phase II of construction consists of four parts: the press tower, the shell of the athletics administration building, the concrete lower-bowl of the stadium for seating and the installation of the primary underground utilities to the stadium, according to a USA press release.
Academic Service Center
In October 2018, the Mobile County Commission voted to dedicate $2.5 million towards an academic service center that will be housed in USA’s planned on-campus stadium.
The new academic service center will be named the Mobile County Center for Academic Success, will be around 7,000 square feet and contain areas for counselors, advising, individual and group study carols and areas, technology and printing, according to USA Director of Athletics Dr. Joel Erdman.
“The academic center is there so we can bring all of our student-athletes, and over 400 exist right now, and have a state of the art facility,” USA President Dr. Tony Waldrop said following to announcement. “They have a nice one now, but that one is not nearly as nice as this one is. It will provide the academic support that students need as they go through and perform in their sport.”
The Hancock Whitney Partnership
On Jan. 15, USA made the announcement they would be partnering with Hancock Whitney to secure funding for the on-campus stadium, which will be named the Hancock Whitney Stadium.
The arrangement has a 10-year life span, which begins in 2020 and lasts through 2029.
“Hancock Whitney’s mission is to help people in our communities achieve their dreams. We are delighted to provide the expertise and support to help enable the growth of the University of South Alabama,” Hancock Whitney Regional President Robbie Baker said in a news release from USA Marketing and Communication. “The University provides excellent educational and medical services to the greater South Alabama community, and we are proud to help them advance their mission.”