Passage by the Mississippi House of Representatives of tourism tax incentives for both Horn Lake and Southaven will continue to pay dividends for years to come, according to the author of the bill, State Rep. Jeff Hale, R-Nesbit and the bill's co-author, State Rep. William Kinkade, R-Byhalia.
The measure is now headed to the Senate which it appears to have solid support.
"I have nephews who play up there at Snowden (Grove Park)," Hale said Monday in an interview from the House floor. "I do see the fundamentals of why this is needed. There is always upkeep. If we are going to maintain Snowden for the Special Olympics and for the Dizzy Dean World Series, we need to have this in place."
Hale said he has been informed that other cities are trying to snatch such events away from Snowden due to the lack of sufficient monetary support for continued upgrades to the 18-year-old facility.
Upgrades were made to the press box and included the installation of bleachers with seats in some sections of the ballpark. "They (officials with sporting events) want to pull out and go to Brandon because we haven't done much to maintain things at Snowden during the past 18 months."
The tourism revenue bills, which were defeated in the House last year and ultimately cost the City of Southaven $2 million and the neighboring city of Horn Lake about $325,000, appear to have support in the Mississippi Senate.
"If it passes the Senate and holds up like it did before, we'll get about $325,330," Horn Lake Mayor Allen Latimer said Monday. "I hear we've got good support for it in the Senate. We would really appreciate their support."
Under the tourism measure for Horn Lake, the City of Horn Lake is able to receive a $2 per-night, per-occupied room to fund economic development in the city.
The City of Southaven had received funds from restaurant sales up until June 30 of last year to cover improvement projects in the parks and recreational areas, which amounted to about $1.9 million annually.
The full House approved separate measures that extend the repeal dates on tourism tax measures to July 1, 2022 for a hotel-motel tax in Horn lake and the restaurant tax on meals at restaurants in Southaven, which is also known as "Penny for the Parks."
Reps. Dana Criswell, R-Olive Branch, Steve Hopkins, R-Southaven and Dan Eubanks, R-Walls, voted against both measures. Rep. Ashley Henley, R-Southaven, voted in favor of the mechanisms to bring in tourism revenue.
In both cases, petitions with 20 percent of eligible voters, or 1,500 signatures could force a referendum on the tax measures, either in Horn Lake or Southaven.
Speaking to the Rotary Club of Hernando recently, Danny Phillips, the National Commissioner of Dizzy Dean Baseball, said the Dizzy Dean World Series and girls softball events are the "largest economic events in the entire area."
"It's huge," Phillips said. "People realize what a great place we have here. They come here to have a good time."
Phillips said Southaven and the surrounding area receive a major boost to tourism nationally due to the events. He said a total of 47 games were streamed live last year on the internet.
"Southaven has been phenomenal for Dizzy Dean baseball," Phillips said.
Robert Lee Long is Community Editor of the DeSoto Times-Tribune. He may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 662-429-6397, Ext. 252.