Installing turf will attract more sales tax moneyBy NIKKI ROWELL,
Ridgeland will be bringing in the green in a few ways when the city installs turf in Freedom Ridge Park.
Installing turf on the four fields, which are used for baseball and softball games, will cost approximately $1 million.
According to Parks and Recreation Director Chris Chance and Mayor Gene McGee, this expense is an investment in the future of the city, as the turf 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.
“We’ve become a recreation center here in Ridgeland with our trails, with baseball tournaments, soccer tournaments,” McGee said. “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.”
Approximately 20 to 30 tournaments are hosted at Freedom Ridge Park each year. Chance said that upgrading the fields could mean more tournaments with wider age ranges.
“Turf allows us to be more multipurpose,” Chance said. “Right now, we are limited to hosting 12 and under games. The turf should allow us to expand to the 13 to 18-year-old age group. We could branch out a little bit.”
Field maintenance is another concern.
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.
“We should be able to reduce the number for in between game maintenance,” Chance said.
This will mean savings for the city.
Turf will also mean fewer rainouts.
“We probably lose five weekend tournaments of year due to rain,” Chance said. “It won’t keep it from happening 100 percent, but if we could cut it by 50 percent, that would help.”
Chance said that they are working on writing the bid specifications to get the project rolling.
Once that information is together, the city is looking at issuing some bonds for several city projects, and they would include this project in the bond issue, according to Mayor McGee.
“I think that would be a positive thing, as (Chance) presented to us, there is a niche there for baseball that is not being covered,” McGee said. “This project would give us the opportunity to provide the baseball needs that are out there.”
Chance said his hope is to get the project under way sometime in April at the latest. Construction should be a 60 to 90-day process.
McGee recognized the benefits to the baseball program in Ridgeland, but also the contribution the project could have on the quality of life for residents long-term.
“The city depends greatly on sales tax,” McGee said. “That’s how we keep our quality of life up. Good trails, good fire in place, public works, good streets, all come from having a good sales tax base. That’s also how we keep our ad valorem tax low.”
“We’ve not increased ad valorem tax since I’ve been mayor, which I’m in my 30th year,” McGee added. “It’s because of strong economic situations like that.”