BILOXI -- A parking lot quickly will become a construction site for a minor league baseball stadium after the Biloxi City Council voted Tuesday to finance the project.
The vote to issue $21 million in bonds was 5-2, the same as in October when the Council indicated to Ken Young if he could buy a team, the city would build the stadium.
Young and other investors bought the Huntsville team, which will move to Biloxi for the 2015 season.
Tim Bennett, president of Overtime Sports and part owner of the team, texted the other owners from the council meeting.
"Everybody's happy," he said. The owners invested $15 million for the team, he said, and the last few weeks have been taxing as they waited until the Council could vote on issuing the bonds.
Former New York Mets catcher Barry Lyons, a Biloxi native, told the council, "It's the best thing to happen to Biloxi in my lifetime. The overwhelming majority of people in South Mississippi wanted the stadium from Day 1."
Bennett anticipates a quick construction schedule in Biloxi. When he brought the Mississippi Braves, the Atlanta Braves' farm team, to Pearl, groundbreaking was May 11 and the stadium was ready for the team to play 11 months later in April.
He also expects a big bump in requests for season ticket information on the baseball Biloxi website following the council vote.
"We're at well over 600 season-ticket inquiries right now," he said.
Felix Gines, Dixie Newman, Paul Tisdale, Robert Deming III and Kenny Glavan voted in favor of issuing the bonds and the agreements to lease the property from the Beau Rivage for $1 a year and build a parking garage for Beau Rivage employees as part of the project.
George Lawrence and David Fayard voted against issuing the bond and the other agreements.
"If it takes off, it's the greatest thing in the world," Lawrence said of the stadium. If not, he said, the taxpayers will be responsible
for repaying the $21 million bond. A $2-per-ticket surcharge up to a cap of $500,000 will be applied to the bond payment and the team will pay a base rent of $150,000 a year.
Lawrence and Fayard did vote with the other council members to hire Dale Partners Architects in Biloxi.
Michael Collins, city attorney, said architect contracts are never put out for bid but every phase of the construction will be bid.
"It's all going to be done the way it's supposed to be done," Collins said.
Newman alluded to anonymous emails sent to council members over the last few days and said she wasn't going to be intimidated into changing her vote on something she knows will be good for the city.
Council President Tisdale said he has concerns about the penalty the city will have to pay if the stadium isn't ready for baseball in April, but said the potential economic benefits for the city swayed his vote in favor of the stadium.
Developers already have contacted the city about projects near the stadium, and Tisdale said, "They need to get here early and they need to be prepared to invest. It's going to be an exciting time."
Glavan said after the vote, "We've got to roll up our sleeves and leverage this into big things."