City asks firm to study possible sports complex|[06/23/07]

Published 12:00 am Saturday, June 23, 2007

The City of Vicksburg will spend $250,000 for a study to determine whether the city can support a $25 million family entertainment sports facility on the site of the current Bazinsky and Halls Ferry ball fields and tennis courts.

&#8220They will look at what we have now and come up with a master plan,” said city attorney Nancy Thomas.

If the study proves the city can support a complex, the company, USA Partners Sports Alliance, will develop a master plan and help the city apply for grants to pay for the multi-purpose complex. The study will be returned within 90 days, according to the agreement.

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It is possible the complex will be the answer to providing adequate sports facilities, which has been the source of discussion and action since Mayor Laurence Leyens first took office in 2001.

Leyens was not at Friday’s meeting.

Thomas said that if the plan and study have a positive result, Aquila Group, a company headed by Tammy Davenport, owner of Good Samaritan Physical Therapy, will lead the construction and management of the fields and sports facilities.

In addition to providing a budget and determining the economic impact, USAP will work with a design firm to develop conceptual plans and designs for the project. According to the agreement, the initial stage would potentially include 16 baseball/softball fields and related amenities, a water park, a baseball stadium/ballpark, as well as golfing, soccer, volleyball, tennis, and other facilities.

South Ward Alderman Sid Beauman, former director of Parks and Recreation, indicated the study will be the first of many steps in the process.

&#8220We’re looking forward to this. It’s in the best interest of the city and its citizens over the next bunch of years,” Beauman said.

A year into Leyens’ term, discussions dating to the early 1990s about bringing a golf course to complement riverfront casinos resurfaced. Plans were to build an 18-hole course along the Mississippi River, south of Interstate 20. But the process has been on hold due to legal issues with the land, owned by the former Vicksburg Chemical.

Currently, two golf courses are available in Warren County. The oldest is at Vicksburg Country Club, a private facility. The Warren County Parks and Recreation Department operates Clear Creek, an 18-hole public course at Bovina, completed in 1983.

Softball and soccer fields have also been a point of discussion and action at City Hall for years. In 2004, city officials signed a deal to buy 200 acres off Fisher Ferry Road for a $1 million softball complex. A new complex was first proposed 10 years before when a bond issue was earmarked for the fields to be placed on public land already cleared and leveled near the Vicksburg Airport. That money was spent, instead, to build the $1.7 million pool complex at City Park.

That same year, city crews created five temporary soccer fields off U.S. 61 South adjacent to the Vicksburg Municipal Airport. The fields were the first city-maintained soccer fields inside the city limits. At the time, Leyens indicated similar fields would be built adjacent to the proposed softball complex off Fisher Ferry Road.

Today, the only public soccer fields are on Tiffentown Road near Clear Creek Golf Course, and were built by Warren County.