Site work for Little League's headquarters set to start in Houston County

WARNER ROBINS – The legal work is almost done, and construction will soon begin on facilities for Little League’s new Southeastern regional headquarters and stadium.

Morgan Law, executive director of the Houston County Development Authority, announced during a Wednesday board meeting that Little League International officials were in town earlier this week to hammer out the final details on their agreement to move to Warner Robins.

“We should have a memorandum of agreement for all the parties to sign within a week or 10 days, and then everything will be set to proceed,” he said.

Little League officials chose Warner Robins late last year over several other contenders to become the new host of the region offices and annual tournaments.

Law said the agreement calls for Houston County to donate about 25 acres it owns adjacent to the recreation complex behind the health department on Cohen Walker Road just south of Ga. 96. It also calls for the Houston County Development Authority to provide $250,000 for site development work and for Warner Robins to provide $500,000 of in-kind labor assistance in developing the site. A state grant of about $598,000 to help pay construction costs also is included in the agreement.

And Warner Robins American Little League, which leases the ball fields in the complex from the county, has agreed to make them available as practice fields during the weeks in August when tournaments will be held at the new stadium.

“As soon as the memorandum of agreement is completed and signed, Little League International will complete design work and hire a project manager,” Law said. “They’re hoping to break ground by April.”

An administration building for the five-person region staff will be built first, but work on the tournament stadium also will begin soon after, he said. Plans call for it to be completed in time for Little League to hold region tournament games there in August 2010.

In other action, Law said he continues to work with Houston County, Centerville and Warner Robins officials to develop a plan for those governments to apply for opportunity zones.

The recently revised state program allows communities to identify areas either in tracts with a 15 percent or greater poverty level or tracts adjacent to them that are suitable for urban redevelopment and industrial growth. If approved, new or expanding businesses in the opportunity zones can qualify for job-creation tax credits.

Perry already has created its urban redevelopment plan and submitted a request to the Georgia Department of Community Affairs to have opportunity zones established.

“It’s another tool we could use to attract new industry and business to the areas we designate,” Law said. “We’re working now with the county to overlay the areas that qualify due to poverty level to be opportunity zones with the county’s comprehensive future land use maps. Once we get that coordinated to find the best areas for opportunity zones, we will go forward with the process in applying for them.”

Law also said that despite the slow economy, there are about half a dozen prospects still considering various sites in the county for new or expanded manufacturing or distribution businesses.

Also Wednesday, officials announced an industry appreciation day celebration will be held from 4:30-6:30 p.m. April 13 at the Flint Energies offices on Russell Parkway to recognize the county’s manufacturing companies.

The next development authority meeting is scheduled for 8 a.m. April 8.

To contact writer Chuck Thompson, call 923-6199, extension 235.