Halls Ferry Park tennis expansion helps city land state tournament

Published 9:34 am Friday, August 26, 2016

A new era of tennis in Vicksburg is about to begin.

On Monday morning, the city will cut the ribbon to dedicate four new tennis courts at Halls Ferry Park. The expansion will not only provide more recreational opportunities for residents, it is already helping Vicksburg become an attractive host city for statewide tournaments.

City of Vicksburg tennis director Rick Shields announced this week that the Mississippi Tennis Association will hold the 55-and-over Combination Doubles Championship at Halls Ferry Park in November 2017 and 2018. The annual tournament features about 250 players from around the state.

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“That’s a big deal. One reason we got the 14 courts was to apply for stuff like this,” Shields said. “To get something like this right off the bat shows we weren’t just blowing smoke about what we can do.”

The expansion cost about $500,000. Nearly a third of that came from a grant from the Land and Water Conservation Fund, a federal and state partnership that helps improve outdoor recreation facilities throughout the country.

The new courts bring the total number at Halls Ferry to 14. There are two sets of five existing courts atop a hill in the park, and the new courts are located in a previously unused section directly behind them.

Construction on the courts started in March, and Shields said finishing touches like benches and umbrellas were still being added. The ribbon cutting will take place at 9 a.m. Monday, and will be followed by festivities with the U.S. and Mississippi Tennis Associations. Games will be played, and there will be a celebratory lunch.

The ribbon cutting is open to the public, and the courts will be available for use afterward.

“They’re state of the art courts,” Shields said. “They spent the money they needed to spend to keep from spending money later on. The city maintains them well.”

Shields said the new courts should also help the city recoup their cost — and then some — fairly quickly. The three-day Combination Doubles Championship alone is expected to bring more than $100,000 to city businesses.

Shields said there will also be a ripple effect as word spreads. He has already put out feelers to the Mississippi Association of Independent Schools and Mississippi High School Activities Association about hosting state tournaments. Alcorn State hosted several matches there last season, and is expected to host more in the future.

“We hope to make Vicksburg more of a tennis-minded community. What helps us is we’re right in the middle of the state. We’re easily accessible to everybody,” Shields said. “This kind of stuff creates bigger adult tournaments because they see what Vicksburg has to offer, and they’re more likely to show up to play tennis.”

About Ernest Bowker

Ernest Bowker is The Vicksburg Post's sports editor. He has been a member of The Vicksburg Post's sports staff since 1998, making him one of the longest-tenured reporters in the paper's 140-year history. The New Jersey native is a graduate of LSU. In his career, he has won more than 50 awards from the Mississippi Press Association and Associated Press for his coverage of local sports in Vicksburg.

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