City plans for $16M sports complex

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, February 23, 2000

City officials hope to turn a bean field into a $16 million recreational complex — but they still don’t know where they’ll get the money. The city has a letter of intent from the National Park Service to lease land next to Natchez High School — about 125 acres — in order to build baseball, softball and soccer fields, a water park, a community center and a walking trail, said Mayor Larry L. &uot;Butch&uot; Brown. The lease would be 50 years at a nominal yearly fee.

&uot;This will handle everything that exists in the city today baseball and softball wise, and still have extra capacity,&uot; Brown said.

The National Park Service will use a portion of the land as an historic interpretive center, Brown said. The land is significant because during the French occupation of the area it served as an Indian settlement, he said.

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The city and the park service have another lease agreement at the Natchez Visitor Reception Center, with the Park Service leasing space in that building. &uot;These partnerships are what has allowed the city to do so much in the past eight years,&uot;&160;Brown said.

&uot;It’s for the residents,&uot; Brown said. &uot;This is something that would be used year-round by the residents. And this is the kind of complex that would attract tournament play. It can be used as an economic development tool.

&uot;It’s good, solid, family-oriented tourism. That’s the facet our tourism program lacks. We have attractions that are oriented toward adults rather than adults traveling with children.&uot;

But finding funds for the facilities won’t be easy, Brown admitted. The city does not have plans to raise taxes or borrow money for project, and recreation grants are nearly impossible to come by. &uot;We’ll start the funding effort in earnest now that we have the land and something visual to go by,&uot; said Brown.

Clarence Bowlin, former director of Natchez’s Dixie Youth baseball league, looks forward to a sports complex — but he’s still skeptical. &uot;Don’t just give me an idea,&uot; he said, adding he wants to see some money attached to the project.

Bowlin said the city is behind other communities which have built sports complexes.

&uot;Natchez probably has as good athletes or better than other places, but our recreational facilities are probably the weakest facilities,&uot; said Bowlin, who said the site chosen for the complex is ideal.

Bowlin said the location next to the high school is ideal because the land is flat and centrally located.