Coast baseball team owner submits bid to manage Smith-Wills Stadium

By ANTHONY WARREN,

The co-owner of a Biloxi baseball team could soon be manager of Smith-Wills Stadium.

Only one firm submitted a proposal to manage the stadium, Kusche Sports Group.

The firm’s principal officer is Tim Bennett, the co-owner of the Biloxi Shuckers minor league baseball team and manager of MGM Park in Biloxi.

The city issued a request for proposals late last year. Bids were opened on January 8.

Ison Harris, director of parks and recreation, said he’s neither surprised nor disappointed with the response.

“I would like to have more options, but so be it,” he said. “This is a big project.”

He said the bid would be reviewed and a decision would likely be made by mid-February. Until then, Smith-Wills will still be overseen by the city.

“We’ll grade it and decide if we’ll accept it,” Harris said. “We typically take three to four weeks to look at (proposals).”

Kusche was formed on January 5, 2019, according to the Mississippi Secretary of State’s website.

the company doesn’t have a website or a physical address, the Secretary of state’s Website shows.

Harris said he knew nothing about the firm.

Bennett had previously been brought on by the city to do an evaluation of the Lakeland Drive stadium, and made several suggestions to make it a more successful events venue.

“We’re dealing with a facility that is structurally sound, but as far as modern amenities that other stadiums, even high school and D1 college have (amenities) that are far superior,” Bennett told the Sun previously.

Among other things, Bennett said the press facilties, bathrooms, concession areas and fan comfort areas needed major upgrades.

“To host any tournaments of significance there, it definitely needs upgraded press box facilities. Colleges come in, they bring their radio team, their sports information directors - they need space to work, to hook up the Internet and to report back to their hometowns,” he said.

Bennett currently manages MGM Park, and was instrumental in bringing the annual Conference USA baseball tournament. to the stadium.

He is also vice president and co-owner of the Biloxi Shuckers team, although he doesn’t have any involvement in the group’s day-to-day operations,  a September 2018 report in the Biloxi Sun Herald states.

Bennett’s tenure is not without controversy. According to the Sun Herald, the city of Biloxi brought suit against owners of the Shuckers and Overtime Sports “because the group was unable to determine how much was owed to the city for rent, advertising and ticket sales under the stadium lease.”

The suit has since been settled, but the results had not been made public, the paper states.

Bennett couldn’t be reached for additional comment.

 

Under terms of Jackson’s RFP, a selected firm would pay to lease the 5,200-seat stadium for a total of five years. Also, the new managers must be willing to pay Jackson $20,000 per quarter during the duration of the contract, as well as 30 percent of all revenue on ticketed events.

The city hasn’t received revenues on the stadium in years, according to Chief Administrative Officer Robert Blaine.

Jackson, meanwhile, spends hundreds of thousands of dollars to maintain the historic facility. In fiscal year 2018, for instance, Jackson budgeted $107,157 for upkeep.

 

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