Pro baseball rally held in downtown Biloxi

BILOXI, MS (WLOX) - Supporters of a downtown Biloxi baseball stadium packed the Beau Rivage parking lot Friday afternoon for an old fashioned rally.

The city wants to build the $36 million minor league stadium on land owned by Beau Rivage that would be leased to the city for $1 a year for 20 years, with options to renew. The city would put up $21 million and the state would chip in with $15 million more. But Friday's rally wasn't just about baseball.

The participants came in sweltering heat, armed with signs of support for a team that doesn't exist yet. As popular as baseball is, the water and the hotdogs handed out were just as popular.

Jody Winans and his family were there.

"I think it would be huge; the economics that would be involved," Winans said. "The local streets that will be filled with people, restaurants, bars."

Former pro baseball players were there to pump up the crowd. One was Jim Howarth.

"Everywhere I played ball in the minor leagues, I saw what it brought to the community; I saw the positive effects on communities. Minor league baseball is quality sports entertainment," Howarth said.

Another was Barry Lyons.

"I really believe that minor league baseball in downtown Biloxi will be the greatest to happen in this city since gaming hit 20 something years ago," Lyons said. "We need it, we want it, we deserve it."

The group trying to bring the stadium, and the shouts of play ball to Biloxi, stress there's much more to it than just a game. Tim Bennett is the executive director of Overtime Sports.

"It's going to be a community gathering place, which is what this stadium is. It's not a minor league stadium. It's a community gathering place that's going to host a minor league baseball team," Bennett said.

Backers say this venture will breathe new life into the area. George Corchis is the president of Beau Rivage.

"It's an economic impetus to revitalize downtown, to bring in more properties, economic development. But also just as important, something for our citizens to use every single day, every year, every month," Corchis told the crowd.

The thought of long balls clearing the fences has others looking back to the past, we well as the future.  Kande Steele is a baseball fan.

"We certainly support pro baseball coming to Biloxi. My dad was a semi-pro baseball player. I grew up listening and watching the Boston Red Sox."

The Biloxi City Council is expected to vote on the $21 million bond issue at this Tuesday's meeting.

Meanwhile, a group called the Taxpayers Coalition is trying to force a vote on that bond.  They are currently in the process of collecting the 1500 required signatures on a petition that would allow for a vote to take place. The group has until Tuesday to hand in the petition. If a vote does take place, it would require passage by 60 percent of the voters taking part in that election.

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