R’land seeking new tax for park upgrades
RIDGELAND — Raising the hotel and restaurant tax to fund a $50 million expansion of Freedom Ridge Park is a plan city officials are working on.
Officials will petition the Legislature to raise taxes on gross proceeds from restaurants, hotels, and motels to raise a minimum of $50 million for the future project to expand Freedom Ridge Park.
A resolution passed unanimously by aldermen at the Nov. 21 regular meeting asks the Legislature to allow the city to levy a 1-percent tax on gross proceeds of all sales from restaurants and a 2-percent tax on all gross proceeds of all sales from hotels and motels in the city of Ridgeland.
“This request would come under the local and private law, which would apply only to Ridgeland’s request,” Mayor Gene F. McGee said. “Every city has to apply for what they want under the Local and Private law. Any municipality is able to make requests and many have done so in past legislative sessions.”
The money will be specifically marked not for the city general fund but for a separate account set up to fund capital improvements. Specifically, the funds would be used for “the purpose of increasing visitors and promoting tourism in the city,” the resolution states.
“The City has looked at this for a number of years as recreation is a big draw for Ridgeland,” McGee said. “The youth sports market has proven to be an integral travel segment and driver in community and economic development. Freedom Ridge Park is a premiere facility that has consistently contributed to the local economy.”
City officials hope to have the Legislature act on their request by the end of the upcoming 2024 session that begins in January.
McGee noted that approval by the Legislature would then lead to a referendum for a vote by the citizens of Ridgeland.
McGee said the tax increase is not expected to have a negative impact on the owners of these businesses or their customers.
The proposed expansion at Freedom Ridge Park is known as Freedom Ridge Park Phase II by city officials. McGee said the city is currently in the planning stage and hopes the new tax will generate a minimum of $50 million towards the final project.
The project will “enhance and enlarge the park” to “almost triple the size” of the current park, officials said. It will also diversify the offerings of the facilities to attract new markets as well as allow Ridgeland to attract and host larger and more tournaments as well as host multiple events at the same time.
“The project directly impacts visitation to the city of Ridgeland and enhances quality of life offerings for all citizens,” McGee said.
He said he hoped the expansion would allow Ridgeland to become a regional and national tournament destination.
“We know recreational tournaments and events to the city drive visitation and increase hotel occupancy and restaurant revenues,” McGee said.
He said the expansion project would also include:
• 1,362 parking spaces
• 8 Regulation baseball and softball fields
• 12 total baseball fields, able to accommodate up to 100 teams each weekend.
• 2 regulation size sand volleyball courts
• 16 batting cages
• Tournament headquarters offices
• 4 full size Artificial turf soccer fields
• Festival and special event areas
• Multi-purpose trails throughout connecting to Ridgeland’s trail system.