BILOXI, MS (WLOX) - In the Spring of 2015, you'll be able to catch a minor league baseball game in downtown Biloxi. That's because the city council voted 5-2 Tuesday to enter into a lease agreement with Beau Rivage and the owners of a minor league baseball team to build a stadium across from the casino.
The council also voted to issue $21 million in bonds to help pay for construction.
When the vote came down, it was not hard to tell which way the crowd was leaning as cheers erupted. Before that, speaker after speaker talked about the benefits of baseball. One of them was Chevis Swetman.
"This project would, and should be an anchor for future development here, from the Beau Rivage all the way down to the east end to the Golden Nugget," Swetman told the crowd.
The city council chamber was packed with supporters, all speaking in favor of bringing baseball to downtown Biloxi, with the exception of two. Mary Rose Lehay spoke against it.
"This is the worst thing Biloxi could ever do is build this baseball stadium. The taxpayers had no say, but the taxpayers are going to have to pay," Lehay said.
A majority of the council was in favor though. Councilman Kenny Glavan was elected earlier this year.
"This is not a savior deal, but it's one piece that's going to drive the future of Biloxi in the right direction," Glavan said.
Two council members, George Lawrence and David Fayard, were not in favor.
"Is this a good deal for baseball?" Fayard began. "It's a helluva deal for baseball. Is this a good deal for Beau Rivage? Probably the best deal they could ever dream of. Is this a good deal for the city of Biloxi? No, it's not a good deal."
Former big leaguer Barry Lyons, who has worked years for this day, was overcome with emotion.
"It was something that I wanted to see for my hometown of Biloxi, Mississippi. I've been in minor league ballparks in small towns and big cities and I knew this would be an awesome opportunity for this community," Lyons said.
Other supporters now say it's time to move on.
"Baseball is about bringing the community together," said Tim Bennett with Overtime Sports. "There is no division in the vote, whether it's 5-2 or 4-3 in favor or against. There is no division here. I think everybody wants baseball. They want to see Biloxi go forward."
The lease will run for 20 years, with options to renew. A few loose ends have to be tied up before construction begins. The owners of the un-named AA baseball team still have to sign the lease, which is considered a formality. And the Mississippi Development Bank will have to issue the bonds.
You can read the entire stadium lease agreement showing the terms and conditions between the city and Beau Rivage: http://www.biloxi.ms.us/PDF/BRlease.pdf
You can also read the team agreement detailing the proposed sublease between the city, the baseball team and Beau Rivage: http://www.biloxi.ms.us/PDF/baseballteamlease.pdf