Freedom Ridge Park to get turf this fallBy NIKKI ROWELL,
Turf could be installed as early as September on all four fields in Freedom Ridge Park in Ridgeland.
According to Parks and Recreation Director Chris Chance, the project is out to bid, but he expects bids to be in at the end of April.
Work could begin in early May, which could mean a September completion date for the project.
“Our first priority is putting out recreational opportunities for the city,” Chance said of the Parks and Recreation Department’s work.
However, he said attracting people to the city is a close second.
“We’ve been very successful at doing that since it opened in 2003,” Chance said. “This would move us back to the forefront of destinations to play ballgames.”
The idea for the project came up last summer, when Chance’s son reached the age when travel was necessary to find games in his age group.
Chance got to thinking about all of the money they were spending on hotels and eating out at restaurants while they were traveling for games.
“We had to stay overnight, and I realized we were pouring money into another city’s economy to do that,” Chance said. “I began trying to figure out a way to bring that here.”
“It’s a way to invest in the city’s future,” Chance added.
The four fields at Freedom Ridge Park are used for baseball and softball games. Putting down turf on those fields would allow the city to host games for older children and have fewer rainouts throughout the year.
Bringing in more people for tournaments brings more sales tax dollars to the city as well, as Chance realized when he was traveling for his son’s games.
“We’ve become a recreation center here in Ridgeland with our trails, with baseball tournaments, soccer tournaments,” Mayor Gene McGee has said of the project. “Bringing in those families to play baseball down there that we’re not getting now would obviously put people in our hotels, eating in our restaurants and put them in our shopping centers.”
The city hosts approximately 30 tournaments each year. However, upgrading the fields could mean opportunities for more tournaments and a chance to broaden the age range they can accommodate.
“Turf allows us to be more multipurpose,” Chance said to the Sun in a previous interview.
At the moment, Freedom Ridge Park is limited to hosting 12 and under games, according to Chance.
Turf fields would allow the city to expand to the 13 to 18-year-old age group.
The Parks and Recreation department would also benefit from turf fields, because it would reduce the number of people needed for maintenance and save the city money.
Freedom Ridge Park currently needs eight to 10 staff members to prep the fields for games.
With turf, the striping and chalking of the fields will be much less intense and require fewer people, Chance said.
At least, five weekend tournaments a year are cancelled due to rain. Turf will also mean fewer rainouts.
Chance expects bids for the project to roll in at the end of April. Construction should be a 60 to 90-day process.