Sports complex study in January will go along way in answering tough questions

Published 9:39 am Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Sometime after Jan. 1, Vicksburg residents should be able to see what the city’s new sports complex will look like.

Vicksburg Mayor George Flaggs Jr. plans to hold a public hearing and release the findings of The Sports Force, the Canton, Ga.-based consultant hired by the city to do a feasibility study for a sports complex, based on using Halls Ferry Park and the city’s Fisher Ferry property.

The presentation is also supposed to provide an artist’s conception of the proposed complex.

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While we have strongly supported the complex, we have been opposed to the Fisher Ferry property since the Board of Mayor and Aldermen proposed using the site for a sports complex.

We believe the site it is not suitable by location or size to adequately meet the needs of a facility suitable to draw major tournaments or meet the recreation needs of local residents, even in combination with Halls Ferry Park.

So it will be interesting to see the consultants’ forecast for economic development from the park and how they address other issues.

“It answers some questions about the property that we’re looking at,” South Ward Alderman Willis Thompson said. “There’s been some concern about the Fisher Ferry property being in a flood zone, and it will address that, also, the access to it. The things people have been asking about.”

How the study addresses those problems and others, could determine whether the public supports putting a sports complex at Fisher Ferry. But there is much more at stake than a decision to build a project on a piece of city land.

One issue that has been somewhat overlooked is the 2 percent sales tax on food and beverage and hotel rooms to finance the project, and must be approved by the voters before it can be levied.

It is our opinion that such a tax is a smart way to fund the project, but past surveys on the sports complex question have indicated residents are split over whether they would support the tax.

The Sport Force report kicks off a very busy 2017 that includes municipal elections later in the year and a possible referendum on the proposed 2 percent sales tax.

How the board and the consultants present the sports complex proposal, and whether the study adequately answers the public’s questions, could go a long way to not only determine the fate of Fisher Ferry, but Vicksburg’s future and possibly the political future of city officials.