Monsour: City investing in parks

Published 7:36 pm Monday, March 18, 2019

The Board of Mayor and Aldermen has not forgotten about the city’s ball fields and community parks with the opening of Sports Force Parks on the Mississippi, South Ward Alderman Alex Monsour said.

And city youth teams are playing on fields at the Sports Force complex, he added.

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“When this administration took office, we took it upon ourselves to take Halls Ferry and City Park and invest in it to make recreation for young and old in Vicksburg for free play in this city for everybody,” he said.

“We’ve taken everything we’ve got and invested money and brought it back up to some of the best facilities in the state of Mississippi,” he said, citing the city’s skateboard park and ball fields at City Park and Bazinsky and Halls Ferry parks.

“We completely rebuilt the tennis complex out there (at Halls Ferry). We spent over $800,000 on that. We will have pickle ball. We will have a state of the art tennis facility out there that can compete with anybody in the state of Mississippi.”

The completion of Sports Force Parks on the Mississippi has had some people concerned about the fees charged by the park and the future of the city’s facilities, specifically at Halls Ferry and Bazinsky.

Non-compete clause

Under a non-compete clause in the city’s contract, the fee to play a tournament at Halls Ferry or Bazinsky is $600 per day instead of the $75 per day rate before the sports complex was built. Under the contract, the fee is discussed and negotiated each year.

Presently, the Vicksburg Girls Softball Association is playing its games at Halls Ferry, and the adult men’s and women’s softball leagues and the church leagues play at the fields near City Park on Lee Street.

Mayor George Flaggs Jr. said the fee at Halls Ferry and Bazinsky Field was raised under the non-compete clause because Sports Force has performance standards it has to reach to get paid.

Under the performance clause, Sports Force Parks on the Mississippi must bring in a minimum of 435 paying out of town teams its first year. It must bring in at least 610 the second year, 915 the third year, 1,065 the fourth year and 1,340 in year five and thereafter.

“We have every intention of making certain they meet their performance,” Flaggs said. “If the city’s going to pay $23 million for a project, then it has to have performance methods that you can see and attest to. They have to have so many teams to come to Vicksburg each week to play.

“The city of Vicksburg could not, even if it wanted to, pay for that sports complex on local dollars,” he said.

“For the people that think Sports Force Park is just for tournament play, I want you to know that many of our kids are out there playing baseball on those fields for free,” Monsour said.  “They can also go in that park and play miniature golf for free, and do all of that for free.”

The Vicksburg Soccer Association and Vicksburg Warren Athletic Association now practice and play their games at the Sports Force Parks complex during the week.

Will Spence, The Sport Force regional manager, said Friday there is no admission during the weekday period when the local teams play.

“During the weekdays, typically Monday through Thursday, which are the contracted days with VSO and the Vicksburg Warren Athletic Association, at that point, the park is open to the public,” Spence said.

Monsour said city officials are working with Sports Force “for our community to go in there and use that facility, while at the same time, we are spending money every day in the city of Vicksburg to make our recreational facilities and 16 other parks in the community better.

“For the few people who say we’re not taking care of the community, this board is committed to taking care of its citizens, but we are also committed to make sure that we get many people to Vicksburg, because this is a tourist city and that’s how we pay for infrastructure.

“We hear from you every day that we need more stores, we need more restaurants. The only way we do that is to make sure more people come here and more money is spent here, so we don’t have to tax your property and we do it through sales tax, and that’s the formula that works,” Monsour said.

“We’ve got to get those dollars to Vicksburg and get more infrastructure and more stores and restaurants and what people want to come to Vicksburg.”

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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