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Biloxi ballpark construction finally underway

MGM Park

Talk about starting off in a deep hole: construction of a new Biloxi ballpark for the relocating Huntsville Stars (Class AA; Southern League) is finally starting this week, with the city still looking for ways to cut costs.

The construction is starting off modestly — just a crane and working installing some test piles — and the real work should be well underway before the end of the month.

Bids for MGM Park came in well above estimates, forcing city officials to scramble with some value engineering, some cuts and some creative methods for shaving costs, like having the city buying materials to avoid a sales tax. A consultant has also been brought into control costs, according to the Biloxi Sun-Herald:

In preparation for the stadium, the City Council last week hired Chris Gouras Jr. of Gouras & Associates as planning consultant to coordinate and attend meetings with the team, review leases and prepare revenue projections for the stadium….

When the low bid from W.G. Yates & Sons Construction came in higher than expected — and more than the city’s budget for the stadium — the council cut extras out of the project and extended the timeline to stay within or close to its $36 million budget.

Gouras will help the city apply for and administer grants from the state, including a Tourism Rebate Incentive.

There is, of course, a lot at stake in getting the ballpark operational as soon as possible. The current schedule delays the opening of the ballpark to July 1, 2015 at the earliest. With this plan, a penalty clause kicks in because the ballpark won’t be ready for the first 35 home games, giving the owners of the Stars $10,000 per missed game: $350,000. But there’s also the chance more games could be missed, so if construction stretches out to the end of August, the team could miss 55 home games — and receive $550,000 from Biloxi.

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