In Mobile, Mardi Gras could bring new life to old warehouse
MOBILE, Ala. (AP) — A pre-World War II warehouse called 23 East at the Mobile Aeroplex at Brookley is being considered as a venue for Mobile’s 2021 Mardi Gras season, Mobile Mayor Sandy Stimpson’s spokesman said.
The new venue will be needed once the Mobile Civic Center is torn down and replaced with a new, but undetermined, facility. The Civic Center, for decades, has been one of the city’s most popular spots for some of the largest and most elaborate balls during the annual Mardi Gras festivity.
“The city is facing the inevitable situation of having to create an interim space to be used for Mardi Gras balls when the Civic Center is torn down,” said George Talbot, spokesman for the mayor.
The location at the Mobile Aeroplex at Brookley would last for a “period of three to four years,” Talbot said.
“Mardi Gras societies most impacted by the loss of the Civic Center space are being solicited for input,” Talbot said. “Challenges for making this move and the corresponding solutions are being identified and discussed.”
Stimpson along with a group of Mardi Gras society leaders, Mobile City Councilmen Fred Richardson and John Williams and Councilwoman Gina Gregory were in New Orleans recently to “witness how a similar warehouse was converted for Mardi Gras activities.”
Pictures from the trip showed the group meeting at the family-owned Kern Studios, the premier float builders for Mardi Gras season.
Talbot confirmed that the group’s tour focused primarily on Mardi Gras World.
“New Orleans has made Mardi Gras an industry with over 400 scheduled events per year, hosting people from all over the world,” said Richardson. “There is a Mardi Gras parade staged in Mardi Gras World every evening. We have have an opportunity to bring all parading groups together for a discussion about exploring warehouses at Brookley for the possibility of exploring the creation of our own year round Mardi Gras venue.”
A decision is looming on which of two teams will be awarded a contract to redesign the 22-acre Mobile Civic Center site. A committee charged with deciding the winning proposal is asking both teams to provide additional details for their plans before final decisions are made.
Talbot said the process is ongoing.
The Civic Center, at 55 years old, continues to be costly for taxpayers. Each year, the city transfers around $1.1 million annually from its General Fund to address maintenance and operation of the building.
Stimpson has long wanted to replace the facility with something new. The mayor has established a goal of 2020, to move forward with an alternative development to the current sports and entertainment venue.
CBRE, a firm that manages the facility, estimated last year that it would cost around $14 million in short-term maintenance costs to upgrade the venue. Of that, $5.3 million would be needed to refurbish the building’s discolored metal dome.
Talbot has said that the proposals for the Civic Center site will also address Mardi Gras activities, which rely heavily on the Civic Center. During Mobile’s two weeks of Mardi Gras, some of the largest night-long balls are held inside the building.
Mardi Gras backers have pointed out that the building, which opened in 1964, was configured to accommodate the expansive and ornate Mardi Gras balls.