Second opinion sought on sports complex

Published 10:11 am Wednesday, December 23, 2015

The city of Vicksburg will be conducting a second poll on the proposed sports complex in hopes of getting more opinions on the project and whether more residents will support a 2 mill food and beverage and hotel tax to fund the project.

The Board of Mayor and Aldermen Monday approved hiring Chism Strategies of Jackson to conduct the poll. The company’s $2,000 fee will be paid with money from Mayor George Flaggs Jr.’s discretionary account.

An earlier poll on the sports complex was conducted in October. Flaggs said this second poll will be conducted differently and should give the board an idea when to hold a referendum on levying an additional 2 percent sales on food and beverages sold in Vicksburg and hotel rooms in the city.

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“We should receive a better demographic profile of Vicksburg,” he said after the meeting. “The questions will be asked a bit differently than they were for the first poll. It should give us a more diverse profile.”

As far as the status of the sports complex, Flaggs said he is waiting on a private developer to reveal its plans for a sports complex before moving forward with any plans by the city. He would not name the developer, but said the company’s preliminary plans indicated using the city’s Fisher Ferry Road property, which the city bought in 2003 for a sports complex.

The Oct. 6 poll conducted by Hayes Dent Strategies talked to 1,740 residents and indicated 64 percent of the people contacted believe a sports complex will improve the quality of life in Vicksburg and should be built on the city’s Fisher Ferry Road property or on other land owned by the city. However, 49 percent of the respondents said they would vote for the proposed 2 percent restaurant and hotel tax to fund it.

A majority also said they would not vote for a bond issue to build it.

Flaggs said he was disappointed with the response on the 2 percent tax adding it was not as favorable as he wanted, but called the 49 percent response for the tax a good base “on a flat, straight up question.”

Under state law, 60 percent of the people voting in the election must approve the tax to allow the city to levy it on food and beverage sales and hotel room rentals in the city.

“When we give economic value to it (in another poll later in the year), I believe it will get up to where we’re going, and it’s about 50-50 whether they want us to borrow money to build the sports complex,” he said.

Work on a sports complex for the city began in May 2014 when Flaggs appointed a committee to examine the city’s recreation program and the need for a sports complex for the city.

The committee in December released a report recommending a multipurpose recreation complex on 270 acres of land featuring baseball and softball fields, soccer fields, tennis and basketball courts, walking trail and a multipurpose building with an indoor swimming pool.

Flaggs has set a $20 million budget for the project, and has discussed doing a lease purchase venture with a private company to build and manage the facility, which would eventually be owned by the city.


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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