Consultant: Biloxi baseball stadium site is best in the nation

August 20, 2013
By Sun Herald

Consultant hired by city ranks site 9 out of 10

BILOXI -- A consultant hired by Biloxi to determine the economic impact of a minor league baseball stadium downtown said the proposed site on U.S. 90 north of Beau Ravage Resort & Casino is a winner.

"I can't think of a better site in the nation that has more unique characteristics," Charles Johnson IV of Johnson Consulting in Chicago said during Tuesday's report to the City Council. Johnson said he also can't think of a place that needs this type of attraction more than downtown Biloxi.

"It's been like this since (Hurricane) Katrina," he said. Although housing has built back and the city has a new library and other buildings, major attractions haven't come.

He estimates the stadium will bring in $34 million a year from games, concerts and other events, or an average of $70 for every person who enters the stadium.

He said the risk to the city will be very low, and Biloxi has partners in the state, the county and the Beau Rivage.

The city paid $25,000 for the report, which Johnson said focused on whether a stadium would bring new business downtown and if existing businesses would do well.

"We expect existing businesses to benefit first," he said, and the $34 million annual impact to be felt immediately.

The city will probably do even better than that the first year, he said, because of the "novelty effect."

Asked to rate the site on a scale of 1 to 10 with 10 being the best, Johnson said he gives it "a 9 or 10."

He compared the potential attendance with that of other teams in the Southern League and said, "You are far and away the leader from a tourism perspective." He expects average attendance for baseball, but better than average for festivals and concerts.

Councilman George Lawrence asked if Johnson looked at other possible sites in Biloxi. Johnson said the company focused on what was in the council's resolution and on that one site.

Councilman Robert Deming asked about potential negatives with the project.

Johnson said the only drawbacks he can see are that downtown will be busier and more congested, and there will be overhead costs to the city. He has conducted more than 30 studies on minor league stadiums and has consulted on other types of attractions, and said he doesn't always recommend a project. Recently, he advised Aurora University in Illinois not to build an ice arena, and he said all of his recommendations on stadiums have been accurate.

Tim Bennett with Overtime Sports said he has worked for nine years to bring a minor league team to South Mississippi and the independent study confirmed what he has said -- "that minor league baseball is everything I thought it could be for Biloxi." He said wherever a stadium is built, traffic will be an issue.

Councilman Felix Gines asked if a stadium or amusement park would be a better investment in Biloxi.

"I think actually you ought to try both," Johnson said.

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