Where do the Baseball & Soccer people go now?
One of the things of a laundry list of things on the Agenda was approval of a bid in order to start construction of the expansion of the John Leslie Courts next to the Activity Center (The "Hank Aaron Complex"). The budget for that was at $1.5 Million and put out two things to bid on: One for a expansion to 17 courts and an Alternate of an expansion to 20 courts.
When finding out the low bid for 17 courts was at $1.3 Million(ish), they looked at the alternate (the one for 20 courts) and found a low bid of $1.589+ Million. While short-term economic impact would hurt a bit (being nearly $190K over budget - $100K has already been spent on it), long-term was much better off due to revenue generated from hosting bigger Tennis Tournaments. If the title of this blog did not give it away, they chose the latter to approve. It was noted that grants can be awarded to OPC if inserted of course to help offset the $190K over budget on the construction.
Now with all that said, there is obvious conflicts of interest - for the expansion to be completed, the existing three baseball fields that once held baseball games once upon a time will be torn down. They currently hold practices for baseball and soccer teams unable to use the fields at FNC Park to practice on - due to that only OPC Teams are allowed to practice on those fields.
The other fields that can hold baseball and soccer practices by other teams unable to use the fields at FNC Park or if the fields are full for practices are at Avent Park (1 baseball Field that has had the fences torn down), the Softball/Baseball Field behind Stone Park, Price Hill Park (near Malco Studios - 1 grass-covered Baseball/Softball Field alongside an outdoor basketball court), and the old Soccer/Baseball Complex which is now down to just two old Softball/Baseball fields after the new Animal Shelter that has taken over the old parking lot and another building still under construction taking over the remaining old soccer fields. The is also the 3 recreational utility fields on the Ole Miss campus owned by the university just east of Wal-Mart that are open to the public when they are not used by Ole Miss.
This has been a long-standing complaint by the citizens of Oxford and the students of Ole Miss - there is no where to go to practice or just play a friendly game of baseball or soccer. With the construction of the new building at the old soccer fields, there are no longer any solo-soccer fields that are open to the public. Around this time last year, I had written about how there are not any basketball courts outside of the two in the activity center that are open to the public. It has also gotten harder for the tackle football program Oxford has going to find spots to practice besides the OHS practice field.
There are solutions to this problem: Pat Lamar Park was once a 9-hole golf course is now just a bunch of grass with a few trees that is now simply a walking trail and used to host a few Oxford Cross Country Meets. Why not build a few open public fields right there? It shouldn't cost too much and the upkeep is already paid for (i.e. cutting the grass) just put two goals out there. There is that open area where the Skate-park is near University Ave., just turn it into a practice field - it is a convenient spot.
Now, another solution could be the new sportsplex 8 miles south of Oxford on Highway 7, but that is a privately owned by the Mississippi Flood D1 soccer organization. It is not known if any team can sign up for fields freely by the public.
In regards to the Tennis courts, Oxford has 12 public Tennis courts today (4 at Avent, 8 near the Activity Center). In addition to those, there are another 4 private Tennis courts (in neighborhoods, all of which inhabit Ole Miss students), and Ole Miss owns 26 - 12 are for exclusive Ole Miss use (9 outdoor, 3 indoor) unless an exception is allowed - like when Oxford and Starkville played in the Gillom Sports Center for North Half this past year due to a threat of rain and no other indoor tennis courts within miles of Oxford, 6 are between the Tad Pad and the Turner Center, and another 8 behind right field at Swayze - to my knowledge, those last 14 are open to the public but owned by Ole Miss.
The key is Oxford owns 12 in two different areas of town - 8 near the Activity Center, 4 at Avent Park. If you ever have been by one of those, more often than not people are using the courts whatever it'd be the Ole Miss students or the citizens and are usually full when school is in full force. Also, 12 courts is too small and has prevented Oxford from hosting Tennis Tournaments (especially when those 12 are not in one spot). Oxford AND Lafayette High School has also used those courts for practice - preventing the public to enjoy some Tennis on the public courts. The expansion to double the amount of courts Oxford has is a need Oxford has needed for a while.
The courts are being paid for collectively by the County, the City, and the University but will be run by the City. FNC Inc. has purchased naming rights but will not rename the courts which is in honor of a former mayor of Oxford. Other sponsorships can be made available by purchasing items like benches.
The pros to this expansion: It will be economical - as with FNC Park with Baseball and Soccer, Tournaments on a large scale can now be held in Oxford and the expansion will pay for itself in little time once construction is completed. Tennis players will not have to wait for a Tennis court when the courts are full - a bunch of people who work in the day or have class during the day use Tennis as their extracurricular activity.
The cons: As I mentioned before, this will take up three PUBLIC baseball fields that are used for more than such. Oxford High Baseball has used those fields for its baseball summer camp for the kids. Flag Football has used those fields for scrimmages when the fields at FNC Park are full - same for soccer and for those teams that are unable to use FNC Park to practice. In a town that houses 40,000+ during the school year, there are not many places for the students or the citizens to just go over to a public field and just play ball - where it would be kickball, softball, baseball, soccer, or for any school to come over and just have a field day.
While it is great for the Tennis program that this is happening, this is terrible for just public fields in general - there are not that many remaining in Oxford. The once was Soccer/Softball/Baseball complex is gone of soccer fields, the City was at one point deciding what to do with the Baseball field at Avent Park suggesting a lake should go there, there won't be any fields LEFT besides the private fields.
Oxford needs a couple of flat grass fields suitable for practice for any team in any sport for the public that ranges from soccer to ultimate frisbee to kickball. This will just make the community complain some more for those that cannot find a spot to simply play or have practice for an organized team. It is the reason why areas like the Mississippi Flood is opening a private soccer complex, it is the reason why people like Taylor McGraw petitioned for a couple of outdoor basketball courts. Oxford's nearest park with any kind of room for those kinds of spots is 20 miles north of Oxford at Wall Doxey State Park.
Good job for the Tennis people to speak up - the rest of Oxford: It's your turn.