Keep showcase events from leaving Vicksburg

Published 11:30 pm Saturday, July 21, 2012

Having completed a successful Miss Mississippi pageant — and all the folderol that accompanies it — Vicksburg is planning for its second summer showcase when the 20th annual Governor’s Cup youth baseball tournament returns to the city Friday.

Vicksburg can count itself fortunate to be able to host the tournament, spanning two weekends and including, as of Friday, 68 teams in 11 age groups. Last summer, 81 teams participated.

All the games will be played at Halls Ferry Park, still the best and only option in the city for a tournament of this size.

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Credit must be given to the City of Vicksburg Recreation Department for getting Halls Ferry into tournament-playing shape. Volunteers with the Vicksburg Warren Athletic Association could use kudos, as well, for continuing to attract youth teams from Mississippi and Louisiana. It has to be the hospitality, because certainly the facility in which these games will be played is not the main attraction. Halls Ferry Park is aging. The park has six baseball fields, one adult softball field and tennis courts. For big tournaments, parking is a logistical challenge, as is access — one road in and one road out. Traffic bottlenecks are common with so many teams playing from morning through dusk.

Imagine, though, the same hard-working volunteers and city crews preparing a modern facility with modern amenities for a Governor’s Cup? How many more teams would come?

Three months have passed since the death-knell was dealt to Vicksburg Mayor Paul Winfield’s plan for a $20 million sports complex. Cities larger and smaller than our own have modern sports complexes that attract tournaments on a weekly basis. Constructing a modern complex in Vicksburg should still be the goal for recreation in the city.

Where the complex would be located and how it would be funded were the two largest roadblocks that led to the project’s derailment.

To continue to attract big youth sports tournaments, Vicksburg has to keep pace with the rest of the state. Competition to attract such tournaments is fierce — and becoming more so. Modern complexes, with modern amenities and easy access to restaurants and hotels have a big leg up on Vicksburg. State and regional baseball tournaments are bypassing Vicksburg for other cities with more modern facilities.

It is imperative that the Governor’s Cup continue to be a summer attraction for Vicksburg.

Much like the Miss Mississippi pageant, there is too much at stake to let it get away.