BILOXI, MS (WLOX) - In a narrow and controversial vote, the Biloxi City Council agreed to come up with another $418,000 to provide additional seating for the new baseball stadium. That additional cost puts the ballpark project $90,000 over budget. That became a contentious issue at Tuesday's council meeting.
Contractors say work on Biloxi's new baseball stadium is on schedule with pre-casting set to start in December. Some council members said if they knew Minor League baseball requires stadiums have at least 6,000 seats, they never would have approved a budget that included less than that.
"If you had to have so many seats that should have been in there to start with," Ward 1 Councilman George Lawrence said. "I don't think we have $418,000 floating around anywhere to pay for this thing. There's no money left in the contingency fund if this thing is right."
Councilman Paul Tisdale said he was unaware of the 6,000 seat requirement when he passed the $36 million budget.
"I must have missed that somewhere along the way," said Tisdale. "Under the circumstances, if it's something we have to have, I would have thought going in when they value engineered this project the first thing they would have done would be put in all those things which are required by the league to more accurately reflect the cost of the stadium."
Council members Kenny Glavan, Dixie Newman, Robert Deming and Felix Gines voted to approve the additional seating after the city engineer announced utility work on the stadium is running around $400,000 less than projected and that savings can be applied to other needs like seating.
"This is a big project. We looked at the contract, looked at the agreements," said Glavan. "We knew we had a contingency fund in place and there were certain amenities taken out to meet budget. Just like we've said all along, if we are able to put some of these amenities back in place we're certainly going to do that. We want the best possible stadium that we possibly can get for the $36 million that we've committed."
Lawrence, Tisdale and David Fayard voted against the additional seating. Tisdale said he wanted to first pass a resolution designating the savings from the utility phase for the seating expense.
With with other league requirements regarding things like signs around the ballpark, audio-visual equipment and a scoreboard not yet funded, council members say they know the money issues are not over.
Adding to the confusion about baseball in Biloxi, the minor league baseball season opens in April, but contractors have until August 4 to finish ballpark construction. The city must pay a $10,000 fine for every home game not played in Biloxi.