Study shows proposed sports complex would work and would mean millions to Vicksburg economy

Published 9:39 am Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Monday, residents of Vicksburg learned a proposed multi-million, multi-field and facility sports complex is feasible. So much so, city officials are moving ahead with plans for a revenue referendum in June to pay for the complex’s construction.

During a public meeting Monday evening at the City Hall Annex, The Sports Force, a Georgia-based sports consulting firm, released their findings of a feasibility report commissioned by the Board of Mayor and Aldermen.

Email newsletter signup

Sign up for The Vicksburg Post's free newsletters

Check which newsletters you would like to receive
  • Vicksburg News: Sent daily at 5 am
  • Vicksburg Sports: Sent daily at 10 am
  • Vicksburg Living: Sent on 15th of each month

“This has been an ongoing community impact study to determine the direct impact and feasibility of a sports complex for Vicksburg,” said Patrick Farno, The Sports Force project analyst. “We spoke with many groups and studied the local market. There is a lack of facilities in the market, because there’s not enough room for an additional place to play.”

After reviewing existing facilities at Halls Ferry, Farno said the company determined the best location for the sports complex would be the city’s property on Fisher Ferry.

Halls Ferry’s lack of growth potential was a main reason for selecting Fisher Ferry. City officials said if the new facility is constructed, Halls Ferry’s fields would become training and practice facilities for many teams and would serve as possible tournament overflow.

During a public meeting, attended by about 35 people, the city displayed an artist’s rendering featuring seven multiuse fields that can be used for soccer, baseball or softball; and championship fields for baseball, soccer and softball — all made of synthetic turf, as well as a splash pad, ropes course, walking track and other recreation activities, including a miniature putt-putt course.

Farno said the design for the complex uses just 75 acres of the 200-acre property and avoids any impact from flood-prone areas of the property.

He said the complex could draw people within a four-hour drive from Vicksburg, showing maps reaching as far south as Baton Rouge, La., and the Mississippi Gulf Coast, as far west as Shreveport, La., and east into western Alabama.

The projected economic impact to the city after five years was estimated at $32.5 million.

Cost and funding

The Sports Force estimated the cost for the project, as it is currently designed, was around $19 million, although they said exact costs would not be able to be determined until the design phase of the project.

As for a timeline, Vicksburg Mayor George Flaggs Jr. said it would depend on the voters approving a proposed sales tax on hotel rooms and food and beverage sales to be used to fund the project.

The Legislature approved a local bill in 2016 authorizing the city to levy up to 2 percent on hotel rooms and food and beverage sales.

The tax will be on the June 6 municipal general election ballot.

Tax revenues are expected to generate in excess of $1 million each year to pay for the park’s construction. Once the park’s construction is paid for, the tax ends.

The Fisher Ferry site

Vicksburg purchased the Fisher Ferry property in 2003 for a sports complex and spent about $2.7 million in site work on the property before abandoning the project in 2009. At the time, funds earmarked for the property were rerouted to repair the Washington Street bridge, which had been determined too dangerous for traffic.

The board in 2015 decided to return to the site and develop it as a sports complex using a proposed public/private partnership to build and operate the park, with a private company managing and operating the facility.

After the release of the study, officials still want a public/private arrangement, with the park being managed by a private company, leasing the property from the city.

One of the major complaints about the Fisher Ferry site is traffic.

Access to the Fisher Ferry Road and the property is along Halls Ferry Road, which is a heavily traveled road, causing one person at the meeting to question the decision to use the site.

“I’m concerned about traffic being a nightmare, I’m concerned about wrecks, about people who currently fly up and down that road at high speeds; we have wrecks all the time,” Michelle Thompson, who lives on Halls Ferry. She said presently traffic is so bad on Halls Ferry, “It sometimes takes me 10 minutes to get out my driveway.”

She said she was also concerned about her property value because of the traffic.

“When I bought my house, the traffic was so bad; it’s worst now,” she said.

Farno said the park’s management, when completed, would be able to stagger and manage start times for any tournaments to reduce the impact of park traffic on Halls Ferry and Fisher Ferry roads.

City officials also said a majority of the traffic to and from the park would occur on the weekends when daily traffic on those roads is reduced.

Flaggs said traffic on Halls Ferry should soon be reduced following completion of the Wisconsin Avenue connector road, linking Wisconsin Avenue with North Frontage Road, and the completion in June of the new headquarters for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Engineering Research and Development Center, which could put another exit on Porters Chapel Road. Flaggs also said he has given  the state’s congressional delegation plans for a connector road from U.S. 61 South at Rifle Range Road to Hall’s Ferry Road. He said the plans could be included in a federal infrastructure bill expected to be introduced in Congress in the next six to seven months. As for the project, the estimated construction and the impact from the completion of the project, Flaggs asked the group to “stop looking at this now and look ahead five, 10 years from now and see where we can be.”

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.

email author More by John