Historic Brookley Field

From Private Field to Industrial Center

A Return To Civilian Ownership

The question of what to do with the property once Brookley Air Base was closed became a difficult one for Alabama and Mobile. Ideas ranged from turning it into a high-tech transportation complex, an international airport, or opening it up to civilian industrial use.[1] Some still held out hope that it could be maintained in some way for use by the military, though that was a slim hope. Early moves were made by parts of the local government to acquire parts of the base during its gradual phase-out as they were no longer needed by the military. The Brookley port facilities were eyed by the Alabama Dockyards as the military stopped using it and looked to its disposal.[2] Parts of Brookley were considered for use as part of a medical university.[3] There was even consideration of setting part of the base aside for an atomic research facility.[4] There was quite a bit of space on Brookley, as well as a considerable amount of jobs being lost with its closure, so naturally any option was being considered to soften that blow.

Industrial use of Brookley, as it stands today as Brookley Aeroplex, was clearly the best option to both make use of the land as well as bringing jobs and prosperity to Mobile. Though naturally that plan was met with some backlash, from those who felt not enough was done to save the base and those who desired other options, such as utilizing the whole base as a large international airport.[5] However, that backlash did not stop the gradual closure of the base or the gradual entrance of civilian entities into the former base facilities.[6] One fixture of Brookley Aeroplex today was one of the first to settle into the old base, Continental Motors, which made their deal with Mobile and the Department of Defense in June 1966.[7] The University of South Alabama also aimed for parts of Brookley and had to wrestle with the Coast Guard for prime real estate of the the old base.[8] The new Mobile Municipal Airport, which took the name of the old Bates Field, also managed to lose some facilities in the closure of Brookley due to Air Force Reserve units stationed on the airport. These facilities were also transferred to civilian use with the aim of softening the blow of Brookley’s closure.[9]

The gradual transfer of Brookley to the City of Mobile continued to march on, with more facilities slowly ceasing operation with the Air Force. In March of 1969, all holds were released on transferring the airport portion of the base to Mobile.[10] In June of 1969, city officials made clear their plan to purchase much of the rest of the base for $10 million that they would then rent out for commercial use.[11] The city was going forward with their plan to salvage as many of the Brookley jobs as possible and Brookley Aeroplex would be the result of their work.

[1] “Mobile Hears Plan For Brookley Base,” The Dothan Eagle, November 28, 1967, Page 7; “Civilian Use of Base Eyed,” The Anniston Star, May 15, 1966, Page 31

[2] “Port Facilities Are Transferred,” Alabama Journal, March 04, 1965, Page 31

[3] “New Medical College Proposed By Shelton,” Birmingham Post-Herald, February 11, 1965, Page 20

[4] “Mobile Seeks Atomic Lab,” The Montgomery Advertiser, June 06, 1965, Page 12

[5] “1,200 Hear Brookley AFB Plans Lambasted,” The Opelika-Auburn News, March 12, 1969, Page 2

[6] “The Brookley Transfer Moves Forward,” The Dothan Eagle, April 05, 1968, Page 3

[7] “Pact Inked By Mobile, Motor Firm,” The Montgomery Advertiser, June 17, 1966, Page 5

[8] “Coast Guard, School Debate Over Brookley,” The Dothan Eagle, July 28, 1966, Page 9

[9] “Air Force Release Bates Field Facilities,” The Montgomery Advertiser, June 09, 1965, Page 24

[10] “Mobile Will Get Use Of Brookley Airport Facility,” The Opelika-Auburn News, March 10, 1969, Page 10

[11] “Mobile: Plan For Brookley,” The Opelika-Auburn News, June 18, 1969, Page 1