MOBILE, Ala. (WALA) – Members of Mobile’s Mardi Gras organizations – including some dressed in costume – descended on the City Council on Tuesday to protest the possible loss of the Civic Center.

Council members on Monday got their first look at two competing proposes to redevelop the 22-acre site. But members of Mardi Gras societies on Tuesday expressed concern that they would not have any suitable venues for balls and other Carnival events.

Jacquelyn Schwartz told council members that a better option would be to rehabilitate the 1960s-era Civic Center.

“There’s nothing wrong with that building,” she said. “I’ve been in that building, almost all of my life, all its life, for sure. … I would hate to see that building destroyed, when it could be refurbished and brought back into the prime that it needs to be.”

Schwartz told FOX10 News after the meeting that a plan to move Mardi Gras events – at least temporarily – to the Mobile Aeroplex at Brookley is inadequate.

“We’re not opposed to a new civic center, especially on the same property,” she said. “But our concern is, what are we going to do in the meantime? Because if they’re gonna tear down the old building, we won’t have anywhere to go for at least three or four years here. That’s how long it would take to build a facility.”

City leaders have not made a decision, but they say it would cost $50 million to bring the current facility up to snuff and maintain it for a decade. As an alternative, the city is evaluating two proposals for something new.

One, by Baltimore-based Cordish Companies, would be modeled after retail and entertainment complexes anchored by big league sports stadiums in places like St. Louis, Kansas City, Arlington, Texas, and Atlanta. The vision includes restaurants and entertainment facilities.

The other pitch, by Stirling Properties in Louisiana, would include a new sports and entertainment complex, apartments, a hotel and a grocery store.

Ashley Adams told council members that relocating Mardi Gras could drive down participation. She says her Mardi Gras organization, alone, pumps hundreds of thousands of dollars into the local economy.

“If the Civic Center’s taken away, that’s gonna be a huge loss to the local economy. … If my one organization spends close to a million dollars, alone, why would you risk the devastating economic impact that the loss of 15 organizations that hold their ball in the Civic Center could be?” she said.

James Alexander said Mardi Gras brings people together.

“It needs to remain in downtown Mobile,” he said. “Any attempt to move it outside of downtown Mobile will be – it’ll be horrendously, I think, destructive, disruptive, to the city employees, paradegoers, tourists, guests families – the downtown hotel and restaurant economy.”

Several council members agreed.

“We need a civic center,” Councilman Fred Richardson said.

Mayor Sandy Stimpson is not expected to make a final decision for several weeks. After that, it will need council approval.

All content © 2019, WALA; Mobile, AL. (A Meredith Corporation Station). All Rights Reserved.

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