Ground broken on Vidalia recreation complex

Published 12:02 am Thursday, August 11, 2011

ERIC SHELTON | THE NATCHEZ DEMOCRAT Johnny Lee Hoffpauir, left, and Vidalia Mayor Hyram Copeland listen as Marc Archer, center, talks about the city’s new recreation complex during a groundbreaking ceremony Wednesday afternoon. The $6.5 million complex will cover 83 acres.

VIDALIA — The 83-acre former vacant lot on U.S. 84 next to Walmart has been the place to be this year.

Wednesday morning the city marked the second phase of major construction at the lot — groundbreaking for a $6.5 million recreation complex.

Recreation district members, city officials and complex sponsors gathered at the construction site to break ground on the project that is scheduled to take approximately one year to complete.

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“It’s a reality now, and we are really excited about it,” Vidalia Mayor Hyram Copeland said. “The end result of this project will be a state-of-the-art complex that will be a great economic impact for Vidalia.”

Copeland said the complex will take up 50 acres on the lot, and will feature tennis courts, four baseball fields, four softball fields, covered and uncovered basketball courts, soccer fields, concession stands and a number of other features.

“This is going to be a tremendous complex,” he said. “Everyone in the Miss-Lou will be able to enjoy all it has to offer.”

Recreation Board No. 3 Chairman Marc Archer said the six years the board spent planning the complex were well worth the wait.

Vidalia’s recreation complex will feature tennis courts, four baseball fields, four softball fields, basketball courts and soccer fields. The project will take approximately one year to complete.

“This is going to be great for everyone who lives in the area,” he said. “This is something that was needed, and it is on its way to being here.”

Archer said Womack and Sons Construction of Harrisonburg has 259 days to complete the project, excluding bad weather days.

“Hopefully things can get done earlier than expected so we can have some kids out here playing ball next year,” he said.

Womack and Sons have already gotten a head start on the complex. A crew of approximately 20 men has been doing dirt work for the complex since July 22.

Vidalia resident Hank Sampson said he is excited to see the city breaking ground on such an enormous project for the city.

“Anything that takes up 50 acres and costs over $6 million is something you don’t typically see in towns of this size,” he said. “I know my three sons at home are going to be thrilled next year when I can take them out to play basically any sport they want all at the same location.”

Sampson was even more impressed to learn that the recreation district was able to fund the complex without raising taxes.

“Just like most of the citizens in Vidalia, my money goes to where it needs to go, and not many places else,” he said. “So having this new complex at no additional cost shows that people put time into planning it.”

While construction for the recreation complex is under way, construction on the municipal complex is still ongoing, and should be finished by December or January, Copeland said.

The city will also begin work on a new $1.2 million park in the same lot as the two complexes. Copeland said construction on it should begin within the next few weeks.