If former NBA and Mississippi State star Erick Dampier and Karla McCullough have their way, a new development could transform South Jackson bringing visitors there from across the country.
The plan is to redevelop 33 acres of the former Jackson Square Promenade on Terry Road into a work-stay-play area that focuses on sports tourism.
When completed, the development, the Mississippi Athletic Center, would have 10 basketball courts that double as volleyball courts and 50 yards of turf that can be used for football, baseball and soccer. The entire development would cost $58 million. The MAC will be the anchor with small businesses and other opportunities for business surrounding the anchor.
Dampier, who led MSU to the 1996 Final Four before a 16-year NBA career, now works with multiple travel basketball teams in the area and wants to use his connections from the game to bring national-quality tournaments to the facility, which in turn would bring parents and spectators to stay.
McCullough is the executive director of the Juanita Sims Doty Foundation. She is trying to help raise part of the money for the project while she says Dampier has already invested some of his own money to see this project become a reality.
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New development for Jackson:
“Our sons play AAU ball together and I mentioned to my mom wondering if Erick would want build a sports facility, considering his passion for sports and the kids,” McCullough said of the 2021 conversation. “The next thing I knew Erick walked in and said, ‘I heard about the work you are doing in the community. I am thinking about building sports complex and I want you to partner with me.’ The next day we started looking for properties.”
Part of the mission of the development will be community service and mentoring help and academic offerings for area youth. Dampier with his Erick Dampier Foundation will continue with basketball camps and other offerings.
But Dampier has seen over the years in his travels with his son’s AAU basketball team how many people and how much money tournaments can bring to a city and an area. The same can be said for volleyball, which can draw thousands for tournaments.
“We have done all of this traveling, but we kept asking the question of why doesn’t Mississippi have a facility like the ones we are going to,” Dampier said. “So, we want Nike camps or other tournaments like that to have that kind of economic development here. It wasn’t necessarily a dream to build this. It just kind of developed over the years.”
While demolition of the site has already taken place, Dampier and McCullough don’t have a date just yet as to when a ground breaking will take place as they are still working to raise as much money as possible.
“I would like to get started in the next 9 to 12 months, but depends on how quickly we can secure the funds we need,” Dampier said. “But we think once it is built, we can bring tournaments with 300-500 teams and that would be transformative. We think we can host some type of event for virtually any sport except swimming because we don’t have a pool.”
Ross Reily can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 601-573-2952. You can follow him on Twitter @GreenOkra1.
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