By Cheryl Lasseter
"We got 'em!"
Pearl Mayor Jimmy Foster's first statement said it all Friday, at the news conference on the state Capitol steps to announce his city's latest stroke of good fortune: the Atlanta Braves' Double-A team will make its home in Pearl for at least the next 20 years.
A gathering of state leaders and Atlanta Braves officials gathered in Jackson for the spirited announcement. "The quality of life for you, your family, and your visitors, will accelerate to the point to where you will enjoy coming out to the ballpark, and have a wholesome activity that makes your community proud," says Braves General Manager John Schuerholz.
The bats will start swinging in 2005, so bulldozers will get busy within the next 14 days. The stadium will cost about $25 million, and will go up on a 180-acre plot of land between Highways 20 and 80. A $33 million Bass Pro Shop will go up there as well. A house sits on the property near Highway 80, but the city has already bought the house and the land, and plans to knock down the house to make way for one of the parking lots.
Governor Haley Barbour says 35 percent of the sales taxes collected from the Bass Pro Shop will go to the Braves organization. "Once (Bass Pro is) there,we'll start collecting the sales taxes, give the 35 percent, and the taxpayers will get the benefit of the other 65 percent," the Governor says.
And we're told the Double-A team will not pull out during their two-decade stint. "It's not based on the sale of tickets," says Tim Bennett, a local businessman who was instrumental in sealing the deal with the Braves organization. "They want fans to come into the ballpark, and communities to come and support their team," he says.
"The Braves are incredibly popular in our state," Governor Barbour says. "It's good for Jackson, good for Pearl, good for the whole state."
Private money will pay for the 7,500-seat stadium. The total development with Bass Pro will be worth more than $50 million.
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