Complexes stay busy, other city leaders say

Published 7:09 pm Saturday, July 14, 2018

When the Board of Mayor and Aldermen began talking with The Sports Force about building a sports complex in Vicksburg, company representatives pointed to the park they built, manage and operate in Sandusky, Ohio, as a model.

The Sports Force Parks at Cedar Point Sports Center features a soccer field, a field dedicated to baseball and softball, seven multi-purpose fields for soccer, lacrosse, baseball and softball and an ADA-accessible community use field.

And like the sports parks at McComb and Ocean Springs in Mississippi, it stays busy for most of the year.

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“The facility is entering its second season, and the city has seen a marked increase in revenue, with people staying in the hotels and eating in our restaurants,” said Sandusky City Manager Eric Wobster, adding the city anticipates seeing a $700,000 annual increase in revenue from the park.

The area, he said, already has a $2 billion tourist industry, helped in part by Cedar Point Amusement Park, a nationally known amusement park located in Sandusky, and Cedar Point Shores, a water park.

According to the park’s website, it is the first of a three-phase project. The second phase, Wobster said, is an indoor facility that has just begun construction by another company.

He said the sports park is the result of a public/private partnership between Cedar Fair Entertainment Co., which owns the amusement park, and Erie County, Ohio, where Sandusky is located. Cedar Fair, he said, owns the property where the sports park was built, and Erie County funded the project with a 2 percent hotel tax bringing in $2.1 million a year; $1 million of that total goes to The Sports Force for the park, which is located partially in Sandusky.

The Sports Force, Wobster said, works to get weekend tournaments into the facility. The rest of the week, he said, the park is used by local leagues for their games.

While they did not give exact numbers on how their budgets have grown, officials with McComb and Oceans Spring say their cities have seen increased revenues from their facilities.

“The Sports Park has major tournaments week in and week out,” said Ron Kessler, McComb parks and recreation director. “Our schedule’s been booked ever since the weekend of March 17 all the way through the end August just about every Saturday and Sunday.

“Whether it’s adults, co-ed or men’s softball, or youth — fast pitch girls softball or boy’s baseball, we have a lot of activity going on. We also have a football field here at the Sports Park; some our youth community (football leagues) play here and we have an adult semipro team that plays here as well.”

Janice Dillon, chief financial officer for the city, said the city levies a 3 percent sales tax on hotel rooms that brings in about $250,000 a year with all of it going to recreation.

“The sports complex has helped boost our revenue with the hotel tax and people eating in our restaurants,” she said.

McComb’s Sports Park has four fields with dirt infields that can be converted for playing baseball or softball. Three parks are 300 feet and one 400 feet.

“We have temporary fences, and when we have small youth events we can bring the fences in to various distances,” Kessler said. “We have a multipurpose football/soccer field, 420-foot football field with uprights and a Miracle League field. They play during the month of March and April for six weeks. Last year, we had 100 special needs young people and adults playing on Saturday morning.

“In the fall, we have a youth soccer program for boys and girls ages 4 to 17. We have about 400 kids participate, and we transform the outfields of our baseball complex to soccer fields, and the kids play under the lights during late August, September and October for about 6-7 weeks in soccer.”

Kessler said the park gets about $17,500 a month for maintenance and repairs at the Sports Park, adding, “We’re blessed to have the hotel/motel tax money coming in. It allows us to do things like add equipment reworked football field. The park helps to put revenue back into the city.”

Geri Straight, Ocean Springs director of parks and recreation, said the city’s sports complex “stays very busy and we’ve had a lot of rentals out there, but mostly it was built for the community because we needed additional space for all of our leagues.”

The park is funded by a 2 percent tax on food and beverage sales that brings in about $1 million a year. The leagues playing at the park, she said, include youth baseball, softball, football and soccer.

“It stays busy during the week and weekends,” she said. “Between February and the end of May, it’s busy every night during the week because that’s when our leagues play.”

She said the park averages two tournaments a month.

“We hold several tournaments, and it has impacted our restaurants in town, with people coming to the park. This weekend we’re hosting a tournament where none of the teams are from the state. An organization from Texas has rented the complex. They did this last year, and all are mostly form mostly from Texas, although we have two teams from Kuwait playing.”

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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