GULFPORT, MS (WLOX) - The Gulfport SportsPlex attracted more than 80,000 people last year and right now work is in progress to bring in even more visitors.
The City of Gulfport is making a commitment to ensure the SportsPlex is one of the premiere youth sports destinations in the South. Part of that commitment was to bring in Jase Payne for a new position to promote the facility.
"When I heard that my hometown had an opportunity to market it and to grow the SportsPlex, I jumped on it," Payne said.
At the SportsPlex, space is being created to add a pair of football fields and six new turf baseball fields.
"We will be one of the few complexes in the Southeast to have six turf baseball fields," Payne said.
The city is in the process of awarding construction contracts to build the fields. The $8.5 million plan calls for the construction to start once the land is cleared. The goal is to have the new fields paid for by bonds to be completed in 2018.
"This is going to be something that is going to be for the rest of the year, as far as construction goes. And once those bids are accepted, we're going to hit the ground running," Payne said.
Another part of the project calls for a new sign featuring LED lighting on I-10 to replace one that's been out of operation for the last year. Along with bringing attention to the SportsPlex, the new sign will add an additional revenue stream for the city.
"It's kind of a fixture for people to see on I-10," said Gulfport Public Information Officer Chris Vignes. "It's going to add almost a beautification, a way for people to see it and it's going to give us an opportunity to have advertising on it, which gives revenues to the city."
The Gulfport City Council is scheduled to take bids for the new sign during Tuesday's council meeting.
City officials hope additional traffic at the SportsPlex leads to more visitors exploring the city and the rest of the Coast.
"These people are staying in the hotels, dining in the restaurants and they're shopping in our malls, so to bring in more people and to host larger tournaments is going to be a big deal here in Gulfport," said Payne.
According to Payne, the SportsPlex is scheduled to host 66 tournaments this year up from 59 in 2016.
The Sports Turf Managers Association recently announced its 2016 "Field of the Year Award" winners. Champs Field at the Gulfport SportsPlex was named the softball field of the year in the schools and parks division. ?