BILOXI, MS (WLOX) - Thousands of baseball fans bought tickets and are eagerly expecting to watch the Shuckers play their first ever home game in Biloxi on June 6. Yet, they're wondering if they'll be disappointed.
Biloxi leaders aren't saying if they'll go along with the team's wish to play at MGM Park a week from Saturday.
The marquee in front of the Beau Rivage has been counting down to June 6 as the day professional baseball will begin in Biloxi. However, city leaders said on Tuesday they never made any such promise.
On Friday, newly elected Mayor FoFo Gilich got his first up close look at the progress late last week. He asked contractors to come up with estimates on what it would cost them to have the stadium ready by June 6.
"What Mayor Gilich's concern is what would the cost be to the taxpayer," said Biloxi spokesman Vincent Creel. "What he doesn't want to do is jump out there and say we're going to everything to open June 6. If there's going to be an extra cost to construction, he wants to know who is going to pay it. The city has never said June 6. The city's contract has always been August 4."
Biloxi leaders said opening ahead of August 4 would cost the city money.
"There were two ways of doing this, We could have done it in 12 months or in 10 months. The difference was $1 million," said Creel. "The city chose to go with the 12 months. Now what you're seeing is we're at the 10 month point and some people are saying why can't we open it now. Well, because the city did a contract that said 12 months which brings us to August 4th."
At the same time, not opening sooner will also cost the city money in fines. Officials said the fines are up to $250,000 so far, and that's also on the mayor's mind.
"There is an expense to not being open and what he's doing is he's weighing the cost of not being open, The per game fine versus what it would cost to open on June 6th ahead of schedule. So that's one thing that he's looking at," said Creel. "The other ancillary costs that he's looking at are they are we going to be opening up a half finished stadium to where we would be diminishing the quality of that stadium."
The question now is will fans who bought tickets expecting to be in the stands on June 6th end up crying foul.
"As far as the tickets being sold, the city never sold any tickets. The city never advertised June 6th," said Creel. "The city's position has always been we would like to open the stadium early but what costs would be incurred and who would pay those costs."
Biloxi city leaders said the fines the city is facing for games missed is capped at $250,000.
So they want to see if opening the stadium on June 6th would cost more than that amount.
As far as the tickets being sold, the city never sold any tickets. The city never advertised June 6th. The city's position has always been we would like to open the stadium early but what costs would be incurred and who would pay those costs.
The team has said fans who purchase tickets for games that are not played in Biloxi will receive rain checks.
Shuckers co-owner Tim Bennett said the team hasn't talked with Mayor Gilich about the latest construction schedule, so he doesn't want to comment on the June 6 opener. "He's driving the train now," said Bennett. "So I can't get out in front of him. I'll just wait until he tells me what to do next."