City Invites Public Input on Recreation

The Meridian City Council is sponsoring a public hearing Monday, Sept. 24, to discuss a proposed new sports complex.

Supporters of the project say the complex could regularly generate millions of dollars a month for the community. However, there are some naysayers.

The city council is now seeking input from all sides about the overall recreational needs for Meridian.

Monday's meeting will explore the overall recreational needs for Meridian. However, one of the top topics of discussion will be a proposed sports complex for the city.

"We just want to know if there is a need in the community, based on the community's information, what is the need?" said city council president, Dr. George Thomas.

Based on revenues generated by similar complexes in other areas, Thomas says the complex could be a major economic engine for the Queen City.

"Up in north Mississippi, they took in $3 million to $5 million in a month in a sports facility for youth," said Thomas.

Given the fact that two interstates run through Meridian, Thomas projects that such a complex could generate even more revenue here.

"We think we can draw from Louisiana, Birmingham, Memphis, the whole southeast," Thomas said.

According to Thomas, if approved, the proposed complex would include at least 8 baseball fields and ten standard size soccer fields.

As a preliminary measure, he says city officials have been looking at about a half dozen possible sites for the proposed complex.

Of the half dozen locations that city officials have considered as possible sites for a sports complex, perhaps the one for Bonita Lakes property is getting the most negative feedback. That's because opponents say they don't want to change this area.

In response, Thomas stresses that actually choosing a site for the proposed complex is still a long way away.

If city officials do ultimately approve building the complex, Thomas says the city council will seek a 2% food and beverage tax to pay for it.

"The people that go out to eat, the visitors that come to town will help pay for that," he said.

In order for this to happen the 2% food and beverage tax increase must first be approved by the Mississippi Legislature to place on the ballot for a public vote.

Here's a listing of the proposed sites for the complex so far: The old fairgrounds on South Frontage Road, Highway 80, the old fish hatchery, Bonita Lakes, property north of Phil Hardin Park and next to the new Jimmie Rodgers Parkway.

Monday's public hearing will be held at 5 p.m. at Meridian City Hall.