OCEAN SPRINGS, MS (WLOX) - There was a long awaited ground breaking in Ocean Springs on Monday. The city hosted a ceremony to launch the construction of a new sports complex.
The ball fields complex off Highway 57 has been in the development stage for more than 10 years. Wetlands concerns and funding questions have hindered the project over the years. But finally, the city has the green light to begin building it.
Sighs of relief accompanied the usual applause at the ground breaking.
120 acres of piney woods and wetlands will provide the space for environmentally friendly ball fields.
"That will include two football fields, four international size soccer fields, five little league baseball fields and four adult softball fields," said Mayor Connie Moran, who spoke at the ground breaking event.
Existing ballfields will be used primarily for practice. The new sports complex will provide a centralized space for game days.
"All the parents will be able to watch their children play in one location. That's very exciting. So they won't have to travel from field to field, they'll actually be in one location," said Geri Straight, the city's director of parks and leisure services.
John McKay is the former Ocean Springs recreation director who was an alderman when the city purchased the site.
"The blue ribbon panel came up with this idea to purchase a big piece of property that could do this very thing," said McKay, who is now a Jackson County supervisor and candidate for mayor of Ocean Springs.
Along with meeting the need for more recreational facilities in the city, the new ball fields complex will also help the Ocean Springs school district maintain a quality and competitive sports program.
"When our recreational programs are very successful in the city, that helps promote the athletic programs of the school district," says assistant high school principal, Terry Breland, who also spoke at the ground breaking ceremony.
Voters cleared the way for the ground breaking, passing a tax increase to pay for the sports complex.
"Well, the turning point was number one, the voters went to the polls. Sixty six percent in favor of the funding mechanism, which is a two percent levy on the restaurant and lounge industry," said Mayor Moran.
The complex will be finished by the end of this year. It's located off Highway 57 just north of Highway 90.
The city deeded 80 acres to the Land Trust of the Mississippi Coastal Plain as part of an agreement to mitigate the project's impact on wetlands.