Project on track to open in February

Published 5:10 pm Saturday, September 22, 2018

Construction of Sports Force Parks on the Mississippi off Fisher Ferry Road is on schedule to meet its February 2019 completion date, a spokesman for The Sports Force said.

“Our first tournament is scheduled for Presidents’ Day weekend,” said Patrick Farno, project analyst for The Sports Force. Presidents’ Day is Feb. 18, 2019.

He said residents can follow the construction through a construction camera site on the city of Vicksburg’s website.

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“That’s our target opening, and the construction should be finished a little before then, so we have a little bit of training time with our operations staff,” Farno said. “We just announced our spring and summer tournament schedule and taking registration and talking to teams.

“We are marketing heaviest in the local region, but also in Memphis (Tennessee), Little Rock (Arkansas), Birmingham (Alabama), New Orleans (Louisiana); kind of all across that region is our target market for your area.”

Farno said The Sports Force officials have been working with the Vicksburg Soccer Organization, “And they’re going to have all practices and games in the spring and fall seasons at the park, so we’ve been working with them to finalize their schedule for next spring.”

Company officials are also working with the Vicksburg Warren Athletic Association to bring some of their practices and league games to the park.

“There’s a little bit of overlap in their seasons, but it fits together nicely in the spring,” Farno said. “Pretty much every week, from when we open through about Memorial Day, we’ll have local organizations using the park for their local use.”

Ground breaking for Sports Force Parks on the Mississippi was held June 18, soon after site work began. While initial plans called for nine multi-purpose fields, the city reduced to number to seven to stay within the project’s $22 million budget.

A miniature golf course, zip line, a playground, and a ball field for disabled children will be included in the park. Farno said a splash pad planned for the park was eliminated to avoid conflict with the city’s splash pad at Catfish Row. He said the park’s hours have not been determined.

Farno said crews are in the process of installing the lighting for the park, adding the LED light fixtures are expected to be installed next week.

“They should begin installing turf on the fields in the next few weeks. The building pads (foundations) are framed up and getting ready to pour concrete.”

While plans called for the sports complex to take up 75 acres of the city’s 200-acre Fisher Ferry Road site, Farno said the playing fields are being built on 55 to 60 acres, leaving an additional 15 acres around the park. The park area is out of the property’s flood zone, which is on the northern side of the property that borders Hatcher Bayou.

A tour of the construction site shows light poles going up, and the framework for backstops and perimeter fences around the park’s multi-use fields being installed. The construction crew is also working on the park’s drainage system and installing plumbing for restrooms and the park’s concession stand.

Crews were getting ready to pour the foundation for the park’s entrance building, where teams will register when they arrive for tournaments.

“We’re going to have 80-foot and 70-foot field lights,” Tim Baskerville, the project manager for The Sports Force, said Friday. “All of the poles are steel; we’re putting in the bottom halves of the poles first, and when we get the LED lights in, we’ll assemble the top parts and then mount them with a crane.”

He said the three fields that are furthest away from the parking area will be the first to get artificial turf.

“We’ll start with field 5, then 6, and field 3, because as we go along with construction it will be tougher to get trucks to those fields.”

Baskerville said laying the artificial turf involves leveling the dirt on the field, then installing a layer of fabric followed by crushed rock and then the surface.

Friday, crews were tamping the stone base in preparation for the artificial surface on field 5, while the dirt on neighboring field 6 had been leveled. Crews were laying fabric and rock on field 3.

Baskerville said crews will begin installing the turf on field 5 this week, adding the installation is a two- to three-week process.

He said the material is porous to allow water to seep through the turf, rock base and fabric to the park’s drainage system, which will move the water to one of four ponds on the park’s perimeter.

While work continues on the park, Farno said company officials are working getting the park’s general and hospitality managers hired.

“We expect to have an announcement on that in the next couple of weeks,” he said. “Those (hires) will be from the Vicksburg area; we’re not looking at a bunch of transplants. We’re looking to hire from the area, and virtually all of our part time seasonal positions will come from the local community as well, and we plan to give information about a job fair in late October or early November.

The park is being built under a plan where The Sports Force is leasing the site for the sports complex on Fisher Ferry Road from the city, build the facility and lease it back to the city, which will pay rent to The Sports Force and allow the company to recover its costs for designing and building the complex.

Money for the lease comes from the revenue raised by the special 2 percent tax on hotel room rentals and food and beverage sales approved by voters in 2017.

The board in 2016 hired The Sports Force to perform a feasibility study on the Fisher Ferry site to determine if the property was suitable for a sports complex.

The company in August presented plans for a proposed complex to the seven-member committee appointed by Flaggs to oversee the design and construction of the complex.

Once completed, the park will be the only one in the state with all artificial turf fields.



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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