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Starkville hires private company to manage its city parks

October 9, 2021 GMT

STARKVILLE, Miss. (AP) — A Mississippi city is hiring a private contractor to manage all of its parks.

Starkville aldermen voted 5-2 Tuesday to approve a $15,000-a-month contract with Sports Facilities Management, the Commercial Dispatch reported. The company already had a contract to manage Cornerstone Park, a $20 million-plus baseball and softball complex that Starkville is building.

The company’s vice president of account management, John Sparks, said the partnership will allow Starkville to accomplish more goals and save money. The company — which manages all parks for the city of Brandon — will have training for coaches in Starkville to improve the sports-learning environments, Sparks said.

Mayor Lynn Spruill said the goal of hiring a private manager is “that we are offering programs that are much more robust and available to a wider number of children.”

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Sparks said not everybody can afford to play travel baseball, like what Cornerstone will host, and his company will offer programs to allow children to play sports for free at other parks.

“There are a large number of children that just need community-level play and they don’t know what they’re going to get tomorrow, the next day or the next year,” Sparks said. “So we want to get kids out on the fields, get them exposed to sports teams, camaraderie, things of that nature, and still be able to manage that in a disciplined and organized fashion.”

Alderman Henry Vaughn voted against the contract.

“How many jobs are we going to lose and how many young people’s dreams are going to be destroyed because they have the idea that when they graduate from school they will get an opportunity to work for the city and do some of the things that parks and recreation will offer?” Vaughn said.