Neel-Schaffer to develop $250K Master Plan for Lamar Co. sports complex

By HASKEL BURNS,

Hattiesburg firm Neel-Schaffer has been given the green light to proceed with a comprehensive master plan for the upcoming Lamar County centralized sports complex, which will include cost estimates and identification of possible sites for the complex, among other specifics.

The Lamar County Board of Supervisors approved the measure Thursday after returning from an executive session. The master plan will cost approximately $250,000 and is expected to be complete in about 16 months, or January 2021.

“I think it’s a step forward to a bright future for the citizens of Lamar County,” Lamar County Administrator Jody Waits said. “I think the board is excited to get a plan in place that will span out for 20 years, for generations to come. It’ll provide them with high- quality recreational facilities.”

Preliminary work on the plan – including engaging citizens through the sportsplex advisory committee – has already begun. Neel-Schaffer staff will now look at an inventory of what facilities already exist in the county, to determine which sports are available in every area.

“Of course we want to build a central facility, but we also want to make sure that there are adequate facilities in all parts of the county,” Waits said. “So in every district, they’ll review what’s there, what’s needed, and what needs to be improved.”

Although the main area that has been discussed in the past for the complex is a 16th Section piece of land near Oloh that is owned by the Lamar County School District, officials will review six possible sites as part of the master plan. Those six locations will then be narrowed down to two, and engineers will complete conceptual drawings of those sites before presenting the drawings to county supervisors for a final decision.

Once that site is identified, engineers will study wetland, topography and facility design of the area. They also will provide funding strategies for construction, operation and maintenance, as well as generate promotional and marketing materials for the sportsplex.

“They’re probably going to look at a proposed board structure for a county-wide recreation board, so there’s county-wide input as to how it should run and be maintained in future years,” Waits said. “So this (master plan) is an expensive item, but it’s one that’s necessary if we want to move forward and build proper facilities for our citizens.”

Neel-Schaffer also will conduct video simulation – including flyovers of sites – as well as an operational plan and cost estimates for building the complex.

“All of that will be in this plan, so that the board and the citizens will have an idea as to what it costs,” Waits said. “And then they’ll make a decision as to how to move forward and actually begin to build the facilities that are proposed.”

Back in June, officials presented supervisors with a preliminary plan for the sportsplex consisting of three phases, mainly made up of lists of facilities at the site: 11 facility listings for Phase I, four for Phase II and four for Phase III.

Phase I of the plan consisted of additional courts, courses and storages areas, including multi-purpose fields, tennis courts, a splash pad, sand volleyball courts and an 18-hole Frisbee golf course. Phase II would consist of five community park improvements, as well as four baseball fields, four softball fields, a high ropes course and multipurpose fields.

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 proposed plan) was the beginning for them to put together a scope of work for the master plan development,” Waits said. “This will be included with the master plan and fine-tuned as other parts of the plan come together.”

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