Can a Biloxi baseball stadium pay for itself?

The ballpark will sit on Beau Rivage property north of its downtown Biloxi resort, currently being used as a parking lot. Home plate will be near I-110 and Howard Avenue.
The ballpark will sit on Beau Rivage property north of its downtown Biloxi resort, currently being used as a parking lot. Home plate will be near I-110 and Howard Avenue.

BILOXI, MS (WLOX) - Plans to build a $35 million minor league baseball stadium in downtown Biloxi are moving ahead. It would be located on land owned by Beau Rivage and leased to the city for $1 a year for 20 years. But many are asking questions about the financial feasibility of such a project, especially with the city putting up $21 million in taxpayers' money to help to build it.

If the Biloxi council approves a bond issue with a 20 year payment for the stadium, here's what's at stake: With an interest rate of 3.5 percent, the annual payment would be $1.4 million. Consultants feel baseball and other events will generate at least that much every year.

Where would the money come from? Ron Peresich is a consulting attorney for the project.

"The revenue sources generally are sales tax, tourism tax rebates that the project qualifies for, which is a big amount of money. Ticket sales, a surcharge that the city's going to get, we'll get a part of every ticket sold," Peresich explained.

Here's one example, the sales tax rebate lasting 15 years would generate $400,000 a year alone.

There are other questions though. About $3.5 million in bond money would be used to build a parking garage for the use of Beau Rivage employees. Peresich said that can be done.

"There's nothing illegal about any of this. The money that's going to be used to build the entire structure, not just the parking garage, is a combination of state and city money. And the state's lawyers all agree there's nothing illegal about any of it," Peresich said. "The city of Biloxi is going to own the entire structure. The parking garage is not going to be owned by Beau Rivage."

Critics say the project is moving forward too quickly. But there's a reason for that, according to Peresich.

"It has to move fairly quickly if we're going to be ready for the 2014 season. Construction has to start."

There is a feeling that this is a done deal. It is not. Peresich said there will be time for public input.

"The city council will have seen the actual final documents that are being negotiated now, and they'll either sign off on them or they won't sign off on them. So there's not going to be any final decision to do it or not do it until probably mid to late July."

The consultants and legal analysts who have been working on this project stress no final decision has been made, no contracts have been signed.

Still, five new city council members will be coming on board the Biloxi City Council on July 1st, and they have their own feelings about the project. Kenny Glavan is a Councilman-Elect.

"I think we all have concerns and we want to see the final framework of the agreement," Glavan said. "But the ultimate decision is Biloxi ready for baseball and is baseball good for Biloxi?"

If the stadium is built, and baseball strikes out, taxpayers will have to foot the bill.

"Nobody can look into the future and tell you exactly how that's going to work out, but the projections are very good," Peresich said.

Meanwhile, a group called the Taxpayers Coalition is trying to force a vote on the proposed bond issue. They must collect 1500 signatures of registered Biloxi voters by next Tuesday in order to do that.

Yet another group that supports the stadium plans will hold a rally at the site Friday afternoon at 3pm.

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