Readers will know that I am not a fan of publicly-funded stadiums. Had the mayors of the 40 largest cities in the US signed a no-public-funding pledge 30 years ago, and stuck to it, we would still have the same number of sports teams in roughly the same places, but without all the taxpayer subsidies. It is rivalry among cities the creates a sort of prisoners dilemma problem and we end up with rampant public subsidies.
What I hadn't realized was the role of outright bribery and kickbacks in this process. Apparently, it is routine that city and county officials take compensation, in terms of free personal access to luxury boxes, in return for approving these public stadiums
In late August, when the Mobile City Council and Mayor Sam Jones first toured the $2.5-million addition to Ladd-Peebles Stadium, including 11 new skyboxes, District 6 Councilwoman Connie Hudson said she was surprised to hear the city council would have a suite separate from the mayor's, which is located just between the 40- and 50-yard lines.
"It was announced to me on the day we toured," Hudson said. "We've always shared, like we do with the Baybears."
The 11 new skyboxes bring the total at city-owned Ladd-Peebles Stadium up to 14, as three were built in 1997 in part of the press box addition. In addition to the two skyboxes available to the city, the Mobile County Commission also has a suite, which brings the total of skyboxes for local government use to three, or 21 percent of the skyboxes in the 61-year-old stadium.
Speaking generally, and taking into consideration the differences between facilities in other cities, Bud Ratliff of the Mobile Bay Sports Authority says most stadiums have only two skyboxes reserved for city and county use, but doesn't see a problem with the current arrangement at Ladd-Peebles.