SUN HERALD | Editorial: Baseball stadium in Biloxi needs a slight adjustment

July 14, 2014 

Constructing a baseball stadium in downtown Biloxi was never expected to be cheap. So it is cause for concern, but not alarm, that the projected cost of the project has risen by several million dollars.

Near the beginning of this afternoon's meeting of the Biloxi City Council, Architect Leigh Jaunsen with Dale & Associates will report on the current status of the project.

Work on the site at U.S. 90 and Interstate 110 has already cost about $9 million. Bids opened last week to complete the project would push its total cost to more than $41 million -- $5 million more than the $36 million the city has to build the stadium.

"It's going to be a challenge," said Vincent Creel, Biloxi's public affairs manager.

Creel mentioned several things that could be done to trim $1.5 million off the cost, such as adjusting the length of the construction contract and using less expensive seating in the stadium suites.

But that would still leave the project $3.5 million over budget.

To save those additional millions at the expense of even more of the stadium's appeal is an ill-advised option.

As Creel said, "One of the things they're trying not to do is diminish fan experience."

As usual, the enthusiasm of Tim Bennett, one of the team's owners, is undiminished.

"I'm not panicked by this at all," Bennett said. "Everything we're going through is 100 percent normal. I've never been part of one that's come in on budget."

Still, as the Sun Herald's Mary Perez has reported, the next few days will be critical to the project, as the city, architect, engineers and team look at options and cost-cutting measures.

Those options include cutting out some features, and asking for financial assistance from the baseball team, Harrison County and the Beau Rivage Resort & Casino, which is leasing the site to the city for $1 a year.

Modifications should certainly be considered, but not, as Creel put it, at the expense of the "fan experience."

And certainly other sources of revenue should be explored -- except taxpayers. Biloxi residents are already liable for a $21 million bond issue. That strikes us as quite enough.

The challenges facing the baseball stadium are neither unusual nor insurmountable. But they do need to be dealt with in a timely manner so South Mississippi's newest attraction can take to the field next year.

This editorial represents the views of the Sun Herald editorial board. Opinions expressed by columnists, cartoonists and letter writers are their own.

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