TUPELO • The city is one step closer to replacing the natural grass fields at two of its sports complexes with artificial turf fields.

The Tupelo City Council voted to finalize a contract with Sloan Landscape Architecture for $150 an hour to draw the initial designs for installing artificial turf at Ballard Park Baseball Complex and Veterans Park Softball Complex.

Alex Farned, the director of the Tupelo Parks and Recreation Department, said the city worked with Sloan the last time artificial turf was installed at a Tupelo parks facility.

“We’ve been fortunate to have this great opportunity to do this, and we look forward to working with Sloan to help us,” Farned said. “This is going to be a great project.”

The council previously voted to authorize the transfer of $2.4 million out of the city’s Convention and Visitors Bureau fund in order to put the project up for bid.

Farned proposed turf installation because numerous baseball and softball games have been cancelled because of inclement weather this year.

“We had a pretty substantial amount of rain earlier this spring,” Farned previously told the Daily Journal. “We’ve missed out on multiple tournaments that got canceled because of rain. The amount of teams that missed out on coming to Tupelo has been over 150 teams. We’ve already got three turf fields in place. On those weekends, those were the only fields we were able to use.”

Farned said even though this may seem like a lot of money, this investment will pay off in the long run because more teams will come and participate in tournaments, which will lead to more people eating at restaurants and staying in hotels in town.

The city is set to place the project up for bid after the completion of the initial designs. The artificial turf is expected to be completed by spring of 2020.