Holloway proposes land swap for $22 million Kroc project, new community center

Biloxi could become home to a $22 million privately-funded Salvation Army project that would house a performing arts center, an indoor swimming pool and several social-service programs at the current site of Yankie Stadium, under a plan Mayor A.J. Holloway is proposing Tuesday to the Biloxi City Council.

As part of the plan, the city would swap the stadium site at Division and Lee streets for the former Dukate Elementary School property on Howard Avenue, where the city would then construct a new community center. The Dukate school site was purchased by the Salvation Army in July, and Holloway has been working on the land swap since then.

Holloway is proposing to swap 11 of 16 acres of city land at the stadium site, and also pay the Salvation Army $195,000 towards its required matching funds to obtain the $17 million grant, in exchange for the Salvation Army transferring the seven-acre Dukate site to the city.

“This transaction is great for the residents of Biloxi,” Holloway said. “The Salvation Army would get adequate land to move forward with its Ray and Joan Kroc Community Center of Hope, which means the citizens of Biloxi would get a $22 million project that would provide a number of important services for all residents and improve our recreational opportunities for those who live in east Biloxi, and the city would be able to begin design work on a new community center on Howard Avenue to replace an aging facility that has served us well.”

At the stadium site, the Salvation Army intends to spend $17 million donated by McDonald’s heir Joan Kroc to construct the Kroc center that would house community service programs, an indoor swimming pool, and an area for the performing arts. The Salvation Army also would move its Howard Avenue administrative operations into the new facility.

The Kroc grant to the Salvation Army is actually for $17 million and requires a local match of $5.5 million, but Holloway said his proposal helps the Salvation Army satisfy that requirement. “The local match could be in the form of cash or in-kind services, and between the value of the stadium land and the $195,000, the Salvation Army would be that much closer to meeting the local match, which makes this proposal even more attractive.”

The city would not be transferring all of the property near the stadium to the Salvation Army. The Lee Street ballfields, located south of the stadium and near Esters Boulevard, would not be part of the transaction. However, the stadium itself, its parking lots on Division and Lee streets, and the small city community center on Division Street would be part of the swap. Details of the plan and future use of the stadium site, including arrangements for activities now hosted at the stadium, will be announced Tuesday afternoon.

The Salvation Army in July purchased the Dukate site from the Biloxi Public School District for $1.15 million. The city had bid $1.075 million for the property, which is across the street from the current Biloxi Community Center.

“Locating the Kroc center at the stadium site means it will be more convenient to the residents who’ll be moving into the Hope VI affordable housing a block away on Nichols Drive,” Holloway said. “And it gives the Salvation Army enough property to allow continued recreational uses at the stadium site.”

Salvation Army contact: Mark Jones, Salvation Army Divisional Public Relations Director for Alabama, Louisiana and Mississippi, 601-969-7560 or 601-278-2100.