Ocean Springs citizens foot Freedom Field light bill

OCEAN SPRINGS, MS (WLOX) - Some local citizens are stepping up to help keep the lights on at Freedom Field in Ocean Springs. That's according to Mayor Connie Moran's office.

South Mississippi soccer fans say folks have been playing pickup soccer games at Freedom Field for at least 20 years. Almost a month ago, the players showed up for a game, but the lights were out.

"Several of us, we're upset the city didn't come talk to us. They gave us no notice. They just shut the lights off, we had to call and find out why they weren't on," said Spencer Buskirk.

After calling the city, Buskirk said he was told the lights at Freedom Field and other parks are not being turned on in an effort to save the city money, and that the group should pay to use the field's lights.

"We don't know half the people sometimes that come and play with us. Who's authority do I have to ask them for money? And how are they going to trust that I'm doing what I'm supposed to be doing with it?" Buskirk asked.

Buskirk presented his case to the board, backed by a room full of supporters. Alderman Matt McDonnell expressed concern about the city's rising energy costs.

"I personally hope that we can work something out. I hope you can still play at night, but there are some costs involved and we have to figure out how to cover them," said McDonnell.

But aldermen Chic Cody and Michael Impey II say no matter what costs are involved, they want the Freedom Field lights back on.

"I'm not going to support charging these people. That's what we maintain these fields for, for them to be utilized," said Impey.

Another important point, Buskirk addressed was the Mayor's recent light up Ocean Springs Campaign, which encourages citizens to get active and live a healthier lifestyle. These soccer plays say that is exactly what they are trying to do.

"Health and fitness is a very important aspect, and I think this is a very important and easy way to promote that issue," said Jacob Brown.

Buskirk and his group feel confident the board understood their concerns, and are just hoping to have those lights on again soon.

At 1:30 p.m. Wednesday, Moran will announce who the locals are that will be picking up the tab to keep the lights on at Freedom Field. WLOX News will have more on these developments later this evening on WLOX News and on WLOX.com.

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