Friendship Park on target enhance economic impact in city
Picayune Youth Athletic Association (PYAA) is a non-profit organization comprised of volunteers who, along with the city and other community members are working towards the goal of helping Friendship Park become an economic driver for the county, while offering young people a positive place for sports recreation.
As of July 1, 2013, PYAA falls under the umbrella of the City of Picayune, but is governed by a board, which works with football, baseball, softball and soccer divisions.
The board of PYAA serves a term of two years and is comprised of Allan Hickman, president; Eli Ouder, vice president; Gerald Myers, treasurer; Shannon Spell, Secretary and Royce Williams, event coordinator/ concessions.
The individual sports are then managed by volunteers who have the same goal of making the park a top-notch facility that is handicap accessible, income generating, and one which will attract local families and travel league players alike.
Tim Craft is vice president of the baseball division, Rayford Lee is vice president of the softball division and Ivan Foster is vice president of the soccer division. Football does not currently have a vice president.
Local parent and Pearl River Community College Vice President for Economic and County Development Scott Alsobrooks, explained how the organization and park are a joint effort between the community and local government.
Alsobrooks said the Mayor and City Council appropriate funding for labor, equipment, services and materials to operate the park. The Board of Supervisors also helps with some costs at the park(s) as well.
He said the boards for all of the sports are volunteers that put a lot of time and effort into not only organizing the various leagues, but also working on the fields, ordering uniforms, stocking and operating concession stands, and whatever else is needed for the day to day operations.
Local business owner Huey Stockstill of HSI, has donated much of the land for Friendship Park giving the city and county a great deal of space for all of the sports that are played throughout the year.
Funding is at issue for current improvements. The league must raise their funding and the city must allocate funds for the park after paying on its initial $3.5 million special obligation bond.
Craft and Ouder have focused on reinvesting money right back into the facility to ensure that is moving toward becoming a profitable community asset. Their strategy along with city management has been to attract traveling baseball tournaments.
“We have spent as much money as we could responsibly spend on field improvements, batting cages, T-ball fields and ground maintenance to be an attractive site for these two day tournaments,” Craft said. “The league also purchased new bats and catcher gear this year. We watch every penny and make sure that it is well placed.”
City Clerk Amber Hinton said the maturity day for the bond is July 2024. The annual installment payments are $270,000, which are covered by the one percent Tourism Tax.
“We still owe approximately $2.3 million. We are looking to any and all possibilities of reducing the debt payments of the park of that bond issuance,” Hinton said.
Harvey Miller, City of Picayune operations manager, said there are many improvements the city is addressing, to ready the grounds for baseball season and the new addition of travel leagues that will be coming this spring.
“The plan is to hire someone to manage the park and be recreation director by April 1,” Miller said. “We have a two year plan of upgrading that we already have begun to implement. We have addressed water retention and bathroom facilities. This spring we will fix the sprinkler system and focus on field maintenance. We will be ready for the seven United States Specialty Sports Association (USSSA) traveling baseball tournaments that are scheduled for this year.”
Miller said that USSSA tournaments typically involve 40 teams competing in two-day tournaments and provide a tremendous economic impact for the competition location.
According to all involved the focus remains on giving local youth a positive athletic experience while helping Friendship Park become an enhancement to the local economy.