‘Vision team’ in place for Lamar Co. sports complex

By HASKEL BURNS,

Late last month, the Lamar County Board of Supervisors discussed appointing an eight-person “vision team” to map out the sports complex proposed for U.S. 98 near Oloh, and set in place the first three members of the team: District 4 Supervisor Phillip Carlisle, District 1 Supervisor Steve Lampton and Parks and Recreation Director Heath Sellers.

The team is now rounded out with last week’s announcement of the remaining five members – Michael Hershman, Steve Lott, Darryl Smith, Sid Gonsoulin and Perry Phillips – with the group’s inaugural meeting set for Nov. 28. Grant Hartfield will serve as the team’s clerk.

“I think they’ll kind of outline what (the sports complex) is, in the big picture,” Lamar County Administrator Jody Waits said. “(If they were) king for a day, and money was no object, what does the project look like, and what are our steps forward?

Funding for the project came into play when the supervisors hoped to use $500,000 secured by the county as part of the BP Settlement Bill; however, Sen. Joey Fillingane had already designated that money be used for a tennis/ sports complex in Sumrall, rather than the proposed sports complex on U.S. 98. (See story on Page 14A).

“So they’re going to hear input as to what it needs to be, and then the next session will be how to get it visualized and get a drawing of that,” Waits said of the complex. “Then as we work through it, we’ll look at how to stage it, how to prioritize it and what the funding need is for that.”

Officials hope to move through that process fairly quickly, in preparation of taking the plan before the Mississippi Legislature during its next meeting in January. Waits said there is a possibility of receiving more money from the recent BP Oil Settlement, in which the county secured $3 million as part of Mississippi’s lawsuit against BP regarding the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.

“The board can see if there are any more bond issues or any more BP money to be distributed,” he said. “We can show (the Legislature), here’s our budget for a major economic driver in Lamar County, which would be the sports complex.”

The committee also will determine which sports to focus on at the complex. At this stage in the process, supervisors are leaning toward soccer, tennis and football, given the county already has several baseball fields and many families currently travel to places like Tatum Park in Forrest County to participate in the other sports.

Carlisle said as part of the process, officials will visit projects in other areas to gather ideas to bring back to Lamar County.

“To me, we want to do this thing right the first time,” he said in a previous story. “In order to do that, we’re going to have to load up and go look at some sites. There’s some great sportsplexes down in the Gulfport area, and some great ones in Louisiana … that we can go and look at.

“So if somebody’s done something really nice, we can meet with the folks that were responsible, then we can do this thing right. And I like the idea of some community involvement – some people out there that can give input on this.”

The main possible site being discussed for the complex is a 108-acre parcel of 16th-section land, owned by the Lamar County School District, off U.S. 98 just west of Oloh.

“We could do a recreational lease with the school system to use that land for this sportsplex,” Waits said.