Three-phase plan submitted for Lamar County sports complex

By HASKEL BURNS,

In the three short months since Hattiesburg firm Neel-Schaffer was selected to handle engineering for Lamar County’s upcoming centralized sports complex, that firm has worked with the Lamar County Sports Complex Vision Board and a Junior Auxiliary Committee to present a proposed master plan for the site.

That plan, which was presented at Monday’s meeting of the Lamar County Board of Supervisors, consists of three phases, mainly made up of facility lists: 11 facility listings for Phase I, four for Phase II and four for Phase III.

“Before we could develop our scope of services, we kind of had to have an idea of what we were looking at – what the county wanted, what the people in the county wanted,” said Doug Wimberly, senior project manager at Nee-Schaffer. “So the two boards – the advisory committee and the Junior Auxiliary Committee – have already have some meetings and put some stuff together.

“So we’ve kind of taken that and kind of boiled that down, along with the demographics here in the county. With that, we’ve kind of developed this preliminary facility list.”

Phase I would feature additional courts, courses and storage areas, including:

  • Six multi-purpose fields with synthetic surfaces for soccer, football, lacrosse, ultimate Frisbee and other possible rectangular field sports;
  • Eight tennis courts striped for tennis and pickleball, with a restroom and support facility;
  • A pavilion with restrooms, concessions, support space and more;
  • Inclusive, age-appropriate play equipment with amenities for all users;
  • A splash pad with shade structures;
  • Two sand volleyball courts;
  • A low ropes course with obstacles;
  • A fenced-in dog park with areas for small and large dogs;
  • An 18-hole Frisbee golf course;
  • Walking, jogging and cycling paths; and
  • A maintenance building and storage area with office, restroom and work space.

Phase II would consist of five community park improvements, as well as four baseball fields and four softball fields. The ball fields would offer synthetic surfaces, two press boxes with restrooms, concessions, warm-up areas, batting cages and meeting rooms.

Two more multipurpose fields also would be added for soccer, football and the like, in addition to a high ropes course.

Phase III would feature an indoor recreation facility with pools, a fitness center, multi-purpose room, exercise studios, a cycling/spin room, a full gymnasium, a steam room, indoor track and racquetball courts.

An aquatics area expansion would add zero-entry/depth features, showers and restrooms.

The third phase also would possibly include the expansion of the baseball/softball fields to include additional support amenities if needed.

“As somebody who grew up in Lamar County and lives here now, it’s an honor to be involved in this project,” Wimberly said. “The quality of life here in Lamar County is already fantastic, but this is going to be something that further enhances that.

“I think it can be an earmark for the state – something that everybody in the state looks at.”

Now that the proposed plan has been presented, officials will now complete preliminary layouts for priority locations and estimate the total cost project for each, as well as develop funding strategies for construction, operation and maintenance of the proposed facilities.

“As we move forward the next step of identifying sites within the county where we might put this, we need to see how big of an area we’re looking at,” Wimberly said. “Right now, we think we’re looking at something from 150 to 250 acres.

“We don’t want to get in an area where we’re boxed in, where we can’t grow, where there’s not room for additional growth. We also don’t want this thing to be a flat, wide-open field with no trees and anything around it – we’re envisioning a site that’ll probably have some lakes and ponds and walking trails.”

Although the main area that has been discussed in the past is a 16th Section piece of land near Oloh that is owned by the Lamar County School District, Lamar County Administrator Jody Waits said nothing in the proposed plan has been set in stone.

“That is not concrete – that’s the first vision,” he said. “This whole process is about getting the vision, and once we have that complete, we can work on the concrete of what we can do.

“So once we agree this is our vision, then we can work on how we fund it. But it’s a long-term process.”