Designers present Cornerstone Park design plans

By: 
Faith Lifer
Staff Writer

City officials saw the potential design plans for Starkville’s proposed Cornerstone park Tuesday night at the Board of Aldermen meeting. The 175-acre park would include a sports complex designated for youth baseball and softball and a public park area.

The proposed complex will be located on property in west Starkville, south of Highway 12, west of the Highway 25 bypass and east of Bluefield Road.

Members from Dalhoff Thomas Design Studio came to the meeting to present their design plan for the park.

“(Cornerstone park) is a proposed sports complex that will allow for us to bring to Starkville something that we don’t have right now, which is a very high- end sports tournament recreation facility,” Mayor Lynn Spruill said during Tuesday’s meeting. “What they are going to be presenting tonight are renderings and opportunities of what this would look like.”

The sports complex could include up to 16 baseball and softball fields, a multi-purpose pavilion, two park plazas, a playground and a 758-car parking lot. The public park area could potentially include a 3.5-mile walking trail, a community playground and spray park, a 4-acre pond with a pier, an indoor practice facility, an RV park and an accessible baseball field with additional parking areas.

Dalhoff Thomas Design Studio Senior Associate Landscape Architect Sam Henry presented the master plan for the complex Tuesday.

“We’re very excited about this plan,” Henry opened. “You can tell it would have a great impact, I think, visually.”

“I think it would get people excited,” Henry added. “It would be something that the city could be proud of. I think it has a lot of possibilities for the way it could impact the quality of life for Starkville.”

Although a large portion of the complex would be designated for baseball and softball fields, the complex has the potential to include a public park area.

“Talking with (Spruill), and as we’ve been going through this process, we didn’t want this to be perceived as just a baseball park since it belongs to the whole city,” Henry said. “A big part of this is also a public park.”

The public park area would be located on the south portion of the property near the complex entrance.

“So what we’ve done is utilize the first property as you come in as kind of the public park portion,” Henry said. “Within that we have a spray park, we have a playground, we have walking trails.”

“We’ve got 3.5 miles of walking trails on site and that would be another element that would be open to the public that they could come out and use whenever,” Henry expanded.

The public park would also potentially utilize the wetland area on site as a space for a boardwalk and walking trails that wrap around the wetland. The plans included a concept for a 4.5-acre public pond with walking trails, a restroom facility and a pier for fishing.

The public park area could also include an RV park and a 52,500-square-foot indoor facility as economic contributors for Starkville.

“Part of this is a multi-purpose indoor facility that would have batting cages, indoor turf that you could use for soccer, that you could use for practice,” Henry said. “Teams can rent these out to go practice. If the weather’s not the best, they can use something like this. Kids can have parties there. There are multiple uses that you could have for an indoor facility like this.”

Separate from the public park area, the northern portion of the complex would be dedicated to the sports complex with the potential for three baseball quads, a championship field, an adult softball field and a high school field.

“We’ve got the championship field, we’ve got two 275-foot fields, six more 250-foot fields and a 225-foot quad,” Henry said. “And then later we’ve got an adult softball eld and a potential high school field.”

The fields are designed to have synthetic infields and grass outfields, which will allow more flexibility.

“So what that does is it allows you to play on them even if it’s raining, because these synthetic game fields allow you to drain quickly, so you don’t have rainouts for tournaments,” Henry said. “We’re talking about doing the championship field as all synthetic to make it something really special.”

The plans include a restroom facility for each quad, shade shelters and a 750-car parking lot.

Henry also noted the project plans intend to make the complex unique.

“When kids and families are traveling to different parks, if you can create something unique and special about it, they want to go back, and they want to play there again,” Henry said.

One aspect of the design that aims to make the park unique is the plan to leave half of the 175-acre property undeveloped.

“We think the idea of placing the ball fields within the woods just gives is a better feel,” Henry said. “We’ve done a grading plan to make sure all this works, but locating the fields within the forest has a better feel to it. It gives it another unique feature compared to other athletic complexes.”

The sports complex could also include two plazas and a multi-purpose pavilion with plans to dedicate the entrance plaza to local baseball legend James “Cool Papa” Bell by featuring a statue of him.

“We think that would be a great place to recognize him and kind of pay homage to him as you’re coming in the facility,” Henry said.

The main plaza would be located behind the pavilion, next to the championship field, as a central headquarters for the complex. The plaza might also be dedicated as a Starkville hall-of-fame plaza dedicated to Starkville’s tee ball history and highlighting local players.

The development of Cornerstone Park might also allow for the development of the Starkville Sportsplex soccer fields.

A side effect of this is that once we create all these new fields at Cornerstone, it allows us to something different at the Sportsplex,” Henry said.

The Starkville Sportsplex currently has seven soccer fields, an adult softball quad and a smaller softball quad. After talking with members in Starkville Parks and Recreation, Henry said it was determined the Sportsplex only needs two adult softball fields.

“So that opens up this space and what we can do is create four new, full-sized soccer fields,” Henry said. “Which gives you the possibility for 11 soccer fields, which opens up a number of opportunities for tournaments.”

The plans also add a walking trail, a central pavilion, more parking in the current lot and a second parking lot off of Industrial Park Road.

PROJECT COST & ECONOMIC IMPACT

The initial phase of the Cornerstone Park project, including 12 of the ball fields, the multipurpose building, a storm drain and water and sewer, is estimated to cost approximately $18.5 million. The championship field, under additional items, would cost $2 million. The potential adult softball and high school field would cost a combined $2.1 million. Additional public park fees exceed $4 million. There are no current cost estimates for the Starkville Sportsplex plans.

The property intended for the complex is owned by Oktibbeha County Economic Development Authority, who has agreed to donate the property to Starkville.

“(The property) was originally intended for an industrial park, but due to some constraints, it has not been used for that and has not had any takers in using it in that way,” Spruill said. “So this (complex) is what we perceive to be an ideal opportunity for an economic development driver that is different than an industrial park, but provides us the well-rounded economy that gives us good things coming into our community.”

A potential 13-field complex was estimated to generate approximately $116,000 in new money during a weekend baseball event and $186,000 in new money during a weekend softball event. The plans for Starkville Sportsplex were estimated to generate approximately $179,000 in new money during a weekend soccer event.

Ward 4 Alderman Jason Walker acknowledged the project proposal was one with all the potential “bells and whistles” during Tuesday’s meeting.

“This is a first-class facility, and I think that’s what we were asking you to look at,” Walker said.

Walker also highlighted the economic opportunity the project could have for Starkville.

“Let’s be clear, Mississippi State University and sports and tourism is a major part of (Starkville’s) market,” Walker said. “By not capitalizing on youth sports, we are missing a major reason that people want to come to Starkville in the first place. They come to Starkville for sports and tourism and we have a real opportunity here for a first-class facility.”

Starkville Parks and Recreation Director Gerry Logan said he is excited about the project’s potential.

“I am excited at the potential that this project brings,” Logan said. “I believe that, if this is built, every single citizen will bene t, both from the new tournament facility itself but also from the domino effect it will have in allowing for other improvements to our current parks system. I look forward to doing anything I can to support this initiative.”

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