Sports Force official outlines strategy for sports complex

Published 10:35 am Wednesday, June 22, 2016

A member of The Sports Force, the consulting team visiting Vicksburg to perform a feasibility study on a sports complex for the city, outlined the company’s strategy for the Board of Mayor and Aldermen Monday.

“We want to come in and take it (the sports complex issue) as a blank slate and make the best recommendation we can,” said Sports Force project analyst Patrick Farno. “The goal is to provide a document which not only gives our recommendations, but provides a road map for the community, and the community will have an opportunity to make a decision.

“We will also include a site analysis of the project and location, and if the topography is feasible from the standpoint of drainage and access.

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“The goal of this is not necessarily that the feasibility recommendations will all be done in one phase. I think phasing is really important, because no one wants to see a complex that’s empty. If we build eight fields initially, and they’re full, that’s a great sign; that means we’re in a volume position where we can build four more fields.”

Farno’s comments came at a sparsely attended meet and greet Monday evening. Besides the Board of Mayor and Aldermen several city officials, one resident, Omar Nelson, who chaired the city’s ad hoc committee on recreation programs and facilities attended.

The board on May 25 approved a $50,000 contract with Canton, Ga.-The Sports Force to do a feasibility study for a sports complex, based on using Halls Ferry Park and the city’s Fisher Ferry property off Fisher Ferry Road. The consultants have been in Vicksburg since Monday, when they met with city officials.

They toured the Halls Ferry and Fisher Ferry sites and met with local baseball, softball and soccer league officials Tuesday. They were expected to leave Wednesday.

Farno said The Sports Force grew from a construction company specializing in building sports fields and complexes, and has grown into a company that is able not only to build a complex, but maintain it and manage it.

“We don’t do anything besides sports fields, and that allows us to stay on top of what’s going on in the industry,” he said. “We look for projects that have heavy community involvement or are with a distinct entities (such as professional sports or projects in low income communities). We can take projects from feasibility analysis through to design, construction and maintenance of the parks.”

Farno said the company last year began a management company called Sports Force Parks that operates self-branded and self-operated tournaments in all sports. He said the first park will open in Sandusky, Ohio, in 2017 with another planned for Panama City Beach, Fla.

“We’re constantly looking for new opportunities across the country, including Vicksburg, as places where we can operate a sports park. We can do everything from research through operation,” he said.

He said the research to determine the feasibility of a complex in Vicksburg is being done in phases.

“The first is a market analysis, market study,” he said. “Everything from demographics, and socio-economic statistics and competitive complexes in the region, corporate-based hotels, climate, all the things that will determine whether this is a feasible project or not. What goes in to making a successful sports complex.”

If the city plans to operate a complex for tournaments and not as a parks and recreation facility, he said, Vicksburg will need a corporate base to attract sponsorship.

“If you’re going to be running tournaments every week, you’re going to need that hotel structure so teams are not staying in surrounding communities, (with the city) losing the economic impact and teams are mad because they’re having to stay further away from the park.”

The second step in the process is programming, Farno said, which involves recommendations for the type of fields, programs for the complex for construction and the events.

“What’s the right sports mix for Vicksburg,” he said. “Is it baseball and softball, baseball and soccer, or all three. We come out out with a 12-month program calendar, that will help with the decision on the number of fields you need, the proper phasing for the project, and allows us to move into the operational stage.”

The third step, he said is to determine if the program is financially feasible. “If the investment is feasible,” he said.

“We look at the economic impact (of the facility),” Farno said. “We look at the program and determine the number of visitors and the spending profile for the program. We look at the direct spending (income) to the community. This is what will help the decision the community will make to decide if it moves forward.”

He said the examination of competing sports complexes is based on the complexes within a four-hour drive from Vicksburg.

“You need to be able to host a competitive tournament,” Farno said. “Those teams will make a value judgment of say, ‘We can go to this tournament with 150 teams, or we can go and have a kind of a mini-vacation in Vicksburg and play in a 60-team tournament, we still get our games in, we still get our competition, but there’s more to do in Vicksburg.’

“It’s taking what the community has to offer and what the region already offers and finding that balance.”

The board hired The Sports Force after South Ward Alderman Willis Thompson recommended the company to prepare a full feasibility study on the sports complex, looking at sites, marketing and other issues.

He said he wanted city residents to have all the facts about the project available so they could make an intelligent decision about the project, and the study, accompanied by designs would do that.

The Sports Force is the second consultant hired by the city, which in February hired Diamonte Global, a subsidiary of JCI Holdings LLC of Sunrise Beach, Mo., at a cost not to exceed $9,025, including expenses, to help the board find a site for the complex.

Company officials recommended the Fisher Ferry property as the site for a sports complex.


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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