By Errol Castens/NEMS Daily Journal Oxford Bureau
OXFORD – Lafayette County supervisors voted 4-1 Monday to partner with the City of Oxford and the University of Mississippi in a long-sought tennis-facility expansion. District 1 Supervisor Mike Pickens was the lone dissenting vote.
Under the tentative agreement, each entity would contribute up to $550,000 to build 12 new courts and a building with restrooms, storage and a small meeting room at the John Leslie Tennis Complex on Price Street. The center currently has eight courts and no building.
“Additional recreational courts are desperately needed,” said Oxford Mayor Pat Patterson. “This will be a public facility, available for everyone to play on. Only three entities will be given priority – the university, Oxford schools and Lafayette schools.”
Andy Mullins, chief of staff to Ole Miss Chancellor Dan Jones, added his endorsement.
“We’re having expansion issues at the university, as you know, and we’re going to have to replace several of our teaching courts,” he said. The university’s use would be for varsity practice and intramural matches.
“We like partnerships,” Mullins said. “We feel like we have a really good relationship with the city and county and would like to make our contributions as well.”
The proposal would allow up to $1.65 million for the tennis expansion and for the renovation of two city-owned baseball fields on McElroy Drive. Any funds remaining would go toward construction of new baseball fields at Oxford-Lafayette Fields at FNC Park.
Backers of the tennis project have also touted it as an economic development creation that could draw hundreds of tennis players and fans to Oxford for tournaments.
Some rural residents, however, say it’s unfair to ask them to pay for more facilities in Oxford.
“I want a tennis court for Tula and a softball field for Tula,” John Sowell told county officials.
The potential of county support for the tennis center was a contentious issue in last year’s elections. Two of three incumbents defeated had voiced opposition to the original proposal, which was estimated to cost more than $3 million.
“I’ve talked to a lot of county folks, and I’ve gotten a lot of positive feedback,” answered Board of Supervisors President Jeff Busby, one of the newly elected supervisors. “These kids need a place to play.”