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Official Review by Justin Sutton, Stadium Journey Regional Correspondent
When South Alabama decided to field a football program, the university did not have to worry about constructing a new stadium because Mobile, Alabama already had Ladd-Peebles Stadium, which hosted the Senior Bowl and a bowl game every year.
The Jaguars took the field in 2009, and they have shown growing success each season of the program’s existence, however the same cannot be said for their home venue.
South Alabama football and Ladd-Peebles Stadium took one on the chin in the biggest and largest attended South Alabama home game when multiple issues arose during Mississippi State’s visit to the stadium for a September contest. Some articles on those stories: Heat Illnesses, Record Breaking Crowd, Was Ladd-Peebles prepared?
With those issues widely publicized, the growing call for a new, on-campus stadium will become louder than ever from many South Alabama fans and deservedly so.
However, the Mississippi State contest is not the norm for South Alabama games, and while it should factor into fans’ minds when attending the game, it should not be the only game on which they base decisions.
The FANFARE scale is our metric device for rating each stadium experience. It covers the following:
Each area is rated from 0 to 5 stars with 5 being the best. The overall composite score is the "FANFARE Score".
There is nothing special about the food available at Ladd-Peebles Stadium, but it is not overpriced either. The taste of everything is fine, but there are no "to die for" items on the menu.
Beers can be had for $5, and they are sold separately from the concession stand, which has your normal run of food such as burgers, nachos, hot dogs, popcorn, and other items.
There are only two concourse areas in the stadium, one on each side, and this is where the concessions are located. There are also a couple of small stands at the sides of the end zone.
Before the game, vendors have the same set-up as a beverage cart on a golf course, so fans can grab a snack on their way into the game. These items cannot be brought into the stadium.
The stadium did receive a knock for issues with the concession stands when South Alabama hosted Mississippi State because they were not able to handle the demand of such a large crowd. Many folks had to buy warm bottles of water, which was unfortunate for those watching a game in mid-September, and others complained of stands running out of food as well. If it looks like the game will have a large attendance, it may be best to make sure to eat up before the game, and not worry about a trip to the concession stand.
Ladd-Peebles Stadium has a few built in assets that gives it a different feel than most stadiums. For starters, it is the host of the Senior Bowl, and it does play that fact up a bit.
The South Alabama students do a good job of making the stadium noisy, and the fact that there are no seats that are far away from the field allows everyone to feel close to the stadium.
That said, one knows that they are not in one of the top venues of college football when they walk in the stadium as well. There is no denying the fact that the facility has become a bit dated. The sound in the stadium could be improved, and the scoreboard is not much more advanced than one that can be found at high schools across the country. Fans wanting to see replays can use video boards that have been placed to the backside of the corners of the end zone.
Other than picking a seat based on field location, there are not many seats that will be better than others, as there are no upper decks or seats far from the field. Pick your favorite perspective for football and go with those seats, and you shouldn't be unhappy. A seat cushion would be a good idea as all seats are metal bleachers.
For those attending a game in the early part of the season, the time of the game should be a consideration when purchasing tickets. If it is possible, purchasing tickets that will help the sun be behind your seat should make the game cooler and easier to watch.
For fans wanting to go to a local establishment and then walk 15-20 minutes to the game, Ladd-Peebles is going to be a disappointment. The area around the stadium is a residential neighborhood, and several South Alabama fans have mixed feelings about the safety of the area. While some will recommend parking in the neighborhood where people sell spots in their yards and on their curbs, others will say that one should not park there.
The City of Mobile and larger surrounding area offer quite a bit in the way of restaurants and entertainment. One can be in Orange Beach in about an hour after leaving the game, or they can be in the casinos of the Mississippi Coast in about the same amount of time. A popular place to visit with children is the U.S.S. Alabama. However, none of this is within walking distance of the stadium.
The South Alabama fans come to the game ready to cheer, and they come in a larger number than one would expect. One of the things they do very well is all wearing the suggested color for the game, creating a spirit of unity. The tailgating area is lively, with many tents and fans enjoying pregame festivities.
When it comes down to it, South Alabama fans help make Ladd-Peebles Stadium a better experience than what the stadium provides on its own. They know when to cheer, and they do it loudly. Their support for the team cannot be questioned. However, like most fan bases, the South Alabama fans can be taken out of the game if the Jaguars start to fall too far behind in a contest.
These fans also deserve credit because they do not have an on-campus, or even near-campus, stadium. Students living in dorms or near campus have to drive to a different area of Mobile just to go to the game, but a large number of the students make this effort for the home games.
South Alabama fans will also strike visiting fans as courteous, which makes this a much better experience for someone rooting for the visitors.
The simple truth is that no good path to Ladd-Peebles Stadium exists. Fans can drive through crowded streets with heavy traffic and pay $10-$20 to park near the stadium in a neighborhood that concerns many South Alabama fans, or they can park at Bel-Aire Mall and wait on a shuttle service to the game.
This shuttle service proved to be a source of angst as some fans reportedly waited over two hours from the time they purchased their shuttle ticket and their arrival time at the stadium for the Mississippi State-South Alabama matchup in 2014. Many of these fans missed the first quarter or more of the game.
The concourse areas quickly become congested with a large crowd in attendance with fans forced to squeeze between the end of the beer lines and the end of the concession lines.
In early season games, this crowd grows as some flock to the concourse to escape the heat. While in those concourse areas, do not expect to see the game, as there are no monitors in the concourse. The only view is through the entrances to the different sections, which is obscured because they are at the top of a small ramp.
On the positive side, once arriving, getting into the stadium is a quick and easy process, so even if one is arriving just about 15 minutes before the game, getting into the stadium before kickoff should not be a problem.
South Alabama fans, and fans of college football in general, can get to see quality football at a fair price at Ladd-Peebles Stadium. When the Jaguars hosted Mississippi State, a team that claimed the No. 1 ranking in college football just a few weeks later, tickets cost $35. For other games, end zone seats run from $10-$20, and sideline seats never exceed $25.
However, the best deal may be the season tickets. For the 2014 season, sideline tickets could be had for $100-$120 for the season, and end zone tickets only cost $60 for the season. Given that the Jaguars played six home games, that is one of the best price per game tickets in FBS football.
Once one fights through the issues with getting to a South Alabama game, their in-game experience is worth the price of admission.
Ladd-Peebles Stadium gets a bump because it plays host to the GoDaddy.com Bowl and the Senior Bowl, and that helps the venue have a bit of a special feel.
Member Review by Nathan on Oct 29, 2012
That was a very cheesy pun. Please forgive me for that. People who don’t need to be forgiven, however, but rather thanked, are the group of students at the University of South Alabama who started a campaign recently to bring college football to the school.
It was a successful campaign. In 2009, the South Alabama Jaguars took the field for the first time, and right off the bat, the program was a success. The Jaguars won their first 19 games ever before losing at NC State early in the 2011 season. Despite the loss, the program made even larger strides in 2011, playing a far tougher schedule than they did their first two seasons and still achieving a 6-4 record.
Before the 2012 season, South Alabama was introduced to big-time college football, joining the FBS as a member of the Sun Belt conference. The team isn’t faring too well in their first year of major college football, but it won’t be too long before the Jaguars flip the script and become a major player in the conference, challenging the likes of Troy, Western Kentucky, Arkansas State, UL-Monroe and UL-Lafeyette.
Their current on-field issues haven’t stopped them from bringing in fans to their historic stadium. Ladd-Peebles Stadium has a rich history of football, most notably playing host to the Senior Bowl and also hosting the GoDaddy.com Bowl (formerly the GMAC Bowl). The Senior Bowl has hosted many of the greatest college football players of all-time, including the likes of Tim Tebow and other legends. The GMAC Bowl has seen their fair share of history, too. The 2001 GMAC Bowl saw Marshall storm back from a 38-8 deficit against East Carolina to win 64-61 in what was, at the time, the greatest comeback in bowl history.
However, there’s a brand new attraction at this venue now: The South Alabama Jaguars, who hope to make some history of their own.
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