By Frank Brown
Mississippi Business Journal
BILOXI, Mississippi — The Biloxi City Council wants to know what it’s paying for before it OKs a $21 million investment to build a minor league downtown baseball stadium.
The Council on Tuesday voted unanimously to commission an economic analysis on the impact of the $36 million stadium that is planned for what is now a parking lot across the street from the Beau Rivage Resort and Casino on U. S. 90.
The cost of the study would be capped $25,000, and would determine the benefit of the site, as well as how it might drive development in the area.
“I know how people feel about studies, but I want a credible analysis of what we can expect to see for our $21 million investment,” Councilman Paul Tisdale said in a news release by the Ciy of Biloxi. “One of the focuses of the negotiations has been determining whether we can pay the annual note of $1.5 to $1.6 million on the construction cost. The analysis would tell us what additional economic development we can expect and what additional revenue would be generated from those who attend baseball games and other events at the stadium.”
The resolution authorizes the administration to hire a firm to undertake the study, which Tisdale said he hopes “would be sooner rather than later.”
The Gulf Coast Business Council’s research foundation has estimated the stadium development will spur an additional $10 million annually in visitor spending on the Mississippi Gulf Coast.
Original plans last spring called for the stadium to be completed in time for the 2014 Southern League season, which begins in April. Delays in completing the deal, however, will apparently push the project into 2015.
“We’re close to closing the window on the 2014 season,” Tim Bennett, head of Overtime Sports, told the MBJ last month. “It’s getting to the point where we may have to look at 2015.” At that time, Bennett, who has worked for nine years to bring baseball to Biloxi, said recent delays won’t jeopardize the project. There also has been no announcement regarding which Southern League team is in negotiations to move to Biloxi.
The $36-million stadium project is being funded by a $21-million bond issue by the City of Biloxi and Gov. Phil Bryant’s $15-million grant that will come from the BP oil spill settlement. The land for the stadium will be leased from the Beau Rivage for $1 a year.
The city has issued the bonds, and bids have been sought, but the bonds have not yet been sold. Lease negotiations are still under way and must still be approved by the city council.
The general obligation bonds will be paid back from stadium project revenues. The stadium will host at least 70 minor league games a summer and will be available for other events such as concerts and college baseball games. The 7,000-seat stadium will include a parking garage and an over-the-highway walkway to the Beau Rivage parking garage. Future developments include a hotel overlooking the field on the north side, along with various entertainment and food venues.