Team effort results in sports complex

Five years of planning and two years of construction paid off Thursday when Chappapeela Sports Park held its grand opening.

The 90-acre sports complex, just off Airport Road east of Hammond, boasts 21 soccer fields, 12 baseball and softball diamonds, two football fields, a gym with four basketball courts, three playgrounds, a splash park and a 1.5-mile walking and jogging trail.

The $17 million project was funded through a 10-mill, 15-year ad valorem tax, approved by voters in 2010, on properties within Hammond Area Recreation District No. 1, said Jason Hood, district board member.

The Recreation District board, a division of Tangipahoa Parish government, started working on the project five years ago with “no money and no real direction,” Hood said. The board met with community members to find out what was important to them and what would be affordable, and the park plan was born of those meetings.

Hood said the district could not have built the park without the cooperation of developer Ed Hoover, who agreed to sell the tract for “only what he had invested in it,” and Hammond officials, who helped to kickstart the project by buying the land before the district had any money.

The city later sold the tract to the district for the same price it had paid Hoover, $2.575 million.

“I know we really pushed the mayor’s comfort zone, but he supported us and look where we are today, with this first-class facility,” Hood said.

“What the board has accomplished here is amazing,” Hammond Mayor Mayson Foster said.

Foster said he looks forward to sports tournaments, such as the youth soccer Strawberry Cup, and other events being held at the sports park.

The South Tangipahoa Youth Soccer Association currently plays on makeshift fields off South Morrison Boulevard, after Hurricane Katrina destroyed the city fields on C.M. Fagan, Foster said.

The new park is certain to bring more economic development to the area, the mayor said.

“There are rumors of hotels looking in the area, and with the airport close by, this area is really about to boom,” he said.