New city ballfields may be ready in ’05

Published 12:00 am Friday, February 6, 2004

[2/6/04]The first of several softball and baseball fields off Fisher Ferry Road could be ready for opening day in 2005.

Vicksburg officials unveiled a preliminary master plan for the $3 million park and softball complex south of Halls Ferry Road between Hamilton Heights subdivision and St. Michael Catholic Church.

The plan calls for construction in phases with the first four adult softball fields finished by next spring.

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“We’re getting on a pretty fast track now,” said South Ward Alderman Sid Beauman.

Phase I of the project on the 200-acre tract west of the church land is estimated to cost about $600,000. It is being funded out of the $17.5 million bond issue issued in 2001, which also paid for the purchase of the land from an Alabama lumber company.

The completed plan calls for 11 fields for softball, eight for baseball and nine for soccer, a nature walking trail and community center with meeting rooms, skating park, splash pod and basketball courts. There is no time line for the rest of the development, Beauman said.

“This will be something that will take care of Vicksburg for many, many years to come,” said Beauman, who has pushed the development despite objections.

Part of the undeveloped area is in the 10-year flood plain, and water from nearby Hatcher Bayou sometimes contains untreated sewage. Russell Adsit, with Fisher & Arnold Inc., architects, said most of the project will stay above water.

The lowest area in the project is at about 120 feet above sea level, about 20 feet above Hatcher Bayou. The first planned softball fields are at 180 feet and St. Michael’s is at 160 feet.

Traffic was also cited. The area is served by the same two-lane road that passes the federal Engineering Research and Development Center and serves Pemberton Square and Halls Ferry Park, now the city’s largest ballfield complex.

Plans show a new road south of the church to connect to the proposed park.

“Where we’re at is the tweaking of the design,” Adsit said. “If we do that, then I’m ready to finalize the master plan and start putting numbers together.”

A municipal softball complex was first proposed 10 years ago on flat land the city owns at Vicksburg Municipal Airport. A bond issue in 1993 had been earmarked for the fields, but instead went to build the $1.7 million City Pool.

Today, there are no city-maintained soccer fields in Vicksburg, and the local soccer organization plays in Bovina. The fields are built on land owned by the school district and are maintained by Warren County.