Other sites for sports complex considered

Published 12:47 am Saturday, May 9, 2015

Members of Vicksburg’s site and design selection committee are expected next week to visit at least two potential sites for a sports complex.

Friday Committee members said they plan to tour a tract of land near the intersection of U.S. 80 and Mississippi 27 and another site in the vicinity of Ring Road off U.S. 61 South, southeast of Immanuel Baptist Church. No date has been set for the tours.

The Ring Road site was suggested by Warren County Board of Supervisors president Bill Lauderdale, a committee member.

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“It’s a big area, it doesn’t have anything on it,” he said. “It’s got a couple of lakes. A lot of it is flat, because they did a lot of work in there in the 40s and 50s. They tried to build an airport in there. It’s not far from the city limits.”

North Ward Alderman Michael Mayfield said he wanted to look at three sites next week, adding he was also interested in a site of U.S. 61 South, south of Merit Health River Region Medical Center. He would not give any further indication of the site’s location.

The committee’s Friday afternoon meeting was its first since Mayor George Flaggs Jr. in April gave it 60 days to examine more potential sports complex sites after a meeting in which several residents said they were concerned about the recommendation from Diamante Global/JCI Holdings LLC, the city’s consultant for the sports complex site, that the city’s Fisher Ferry property was the most economically feasible site to build a sports complex.

“I think we need to do due diligence and investigate and see which options are available and make our decisions,” South Ward Alderman Willis Thompson said.

“When you get to the end of the road and you stop, you’ve got to have sense enough to turn around,” District 1 supervisor John Arnold said. “We need to look at every avenue we can.”

Besides potential sites, the committee discussed the potential cost of purchasing and developing a site. Flaggs has set a $20 million budget for the project, and the Legislature approved a local and private bill that allows the city to hold a referendum to levy up to a 2 percent sales tax to pay for the project.

“Before we nail anything down, I’m not going to feel good until we satisfy ourselves that there’s nothing else out there that we won’t have to spend millions on just to get the topo (topography) (corrected),” Mayfield said. “If you get $25 million over the next 15 years and you go spend $5 to $6 million on a piece of property to get the topo you want, you’ve defeated your purpose. Since the Legislature has given us permission, we need to get very serious.
“Let’s keep in mind from the word go, what you spend up front to get it prepared, is what’s going to hurt you most of all,” he said.

Besides Fisher Ferry, Diamante Global was asked to look at the Mississippi Chemical Site, also known as the Mississippi Bluffs, off Warrenton Road and the city’s existing facilities at Halls Ferry Park as possible sites for sports complex.

Jon Moore, Diamante Global senior partner said Fisher Ferry was selected because site work had already been done on the property and it was owned by the city. Mississippi Bluff site, would require an estimate $3.4 million in site work and the city would have to buy the property. Halls Ferry was eliminated because the city would have to acquire more land and the layout of the baseball fields was inefficient.

Traffic was the residents’ major concern because the most direct access to Fisher Ferry is Halls Ferry Road, which is crowded with traffic in the afternoons when U.S. Army Engineer Research and Development Center employees leave work. Also, access to the property off Fisher Ferry Road is difficult and could require building an outlet from the property either directly to U.S. 61 South or to nearby Dana Road, which would connect the property to U.S. 61 South.

Including the $237,000 price the city paid for the Fisher Ferry property in 2003, the property has cost the city about $3 million. The total includes site preparation and wetlands permits.

About John Surratt

John Surratt is a graduate of Louisiana State University with a degree in general studies. He has worked as an editor, reporter and photographer for newspapers in Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama. He has been a member of The Vicksburg Post staff since 2011 and covers city government. He and his wife attend St. Paul Catholic Church and he is a member of the Port City Kiwanis Club.

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