The Starkville Board of Aldermen has authorized the city to negotiate for the potential purchase of 51 acres of land to expand the Sportsplex.
The decision came in executive session during Tuesday’s board meeting.
After the meeting, Mayor Lynn Spruill said the opportunity is an important one to expand the city’s recreational offerings.
“It’s a huge opportunity to expand our presence with sports tournaments and make us very competitive with some of the nicer areas that have already seen expansion,” Spruill said.
The 51 acres of land are located to the south of the Sportsplex. Last fall, the board authorized the city to take preliminary steps to look at land to the west of the Sportsplex for acquisition, though it’s unclear where that process is, if it’s ongoing.
With Tuesday’s vote, Spruill said she will begin contacting land owners to begin negotiations.
“I’m going to get in contact with those owners and see about negotiating with them to make sure that they’re interested, and work with them on what their feelings are about selling to the city,” Spruill said. “Obviously we pay an appraised value. We can’t pay above an appraised value because it’s public dollars, so we have to be mindful of that.”
Interim Parks and Recreation Director Gerry Logan said he is excited to see the potential land acquisition advancing. Should the city purchase the land, he said, it will have to be determined how exactly it’s used for the Sportsplex.
“We’re moving forward to get more space,” he said. “Assuming we get more space, the big thing is it will give us options.”
Ward 2 Alderman Sandra Sistrunk, whose ward holds the Sportsplex and the land under consideration for its expansion, said she’s excited about the possible expansion. She said it could be good not only for the community, but for economic development in the city, because attracting more tournaments to the city could boost its two-percent food and beverage tax revenue.
She said the city could also use its 2-percent tax revenue to fund the land acquisition.
“The next step will be what we do with the property,” she said. “At minimum, it positions us to be prepared if and when we’re ready to move forward with a bigger project expanding the Sportsplex.”
The potential expansion also provides an opportunity to have an entrance to the Sportsplex that makes it easier for people from outside of Starkville to access the facility. Similarly, she said it could offer a chance to expand parking.
“Anybody who’s been out there knows what a need we have there,” she said. “It’s a good thing.”
Alex Holloway was formerly a reporter with The Dispatch.