Millions of taxpayer dollars fueling expansion efforts, new golf course at LeFleur’s Bluff
Organizers tout outreach, education benefits from golf park while some elected officials reference love of the sport
JACKSON, Miss. (WLBT) - While organizers and tourism officials believe a major expansion of LeFleur’s Bluff — fueled by $13.2 million from lawmakers — will only expand their outreach and education efforts for Mississippi’s children, state and federal elected leaders want the public to know they’re also fans of the sport.
State Sen. John Horhn said the money for the course, which lawmakers approved last week, came from capital expense funds.
U.S. Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith told dozens at Tuesday’s groundbreaking that the new golf park, which will feature the state’s only Robert Trent Jones golf course, gives her brownie points with her colleagues in Washington.
“This gives me bragging rights in the cloakroom of the U.S. Senate, because, you know, we got a lot of golfers there,” Hyde-Smith told the crowd. “This gives me a lot of bragging rights there.”
House Speaker Philip Gunn spoke highly of the ten-hole course as well, referencing the sport and his Senate counterpart’s abilities on the green.
“I’m an avid golfer, and I will tell you the lieutenant governor is an avid golfer, too. He’s a really good golfer,” Gunn said through sunglasses on a windy morning outside the Mississippi Children’s Museum. “Don’t let him fool you. I noticed that subtle suggestion that [Delbert Hosemann] made that you get to be the first one to hit the first tee shot. Hopefully, I’ll get to stand there with you.”
Plans released by the Mississippi Children’s Museum show several new additions to LeFleur’s Bluff, including areas devoted to disc golf, 3D archery, pickleball, and even botanical gardens.
This would be the second phase of a master plan that took five years to draft, officials said.
In December 2021, the first phase involved the opening of a large playground that sixty-thousand people have already visited, according to a press release from the children’s museum.
Robert Trent Jones II told reporters he envisions the entire facility as something the community will embrace because of the activities available there.
“It’s not just about golf, but we want the First Tee, we want to put a club in a young boy’s and girl’s hands and have them swing it. Once they hit a golf ball, it’ll go on for life. They’ll be back,” Jones said. “Our family has built golf courses in every state except two. Mississippi is one. South Dakota, I may never get it done there. But we’re gonna get Mississippi done.”
Lt. Gov. Delbert Hosemann said the expansion efforts will also connect several parts of the Capital City.
“We’re connecting downtown, Fondren, this area of the baseball fields, Children’s Museum, all of the things that we offer here as a cultural attachment,” Hosemann said. “Taxpayer funds were put out so that we’d have this kind of a first-class, world-class resort here.”
Part of that connectivity will come from a pedestrian bridge that will be constructed over Lakeland Drive, linking the Agriculture Museum to the Children’s Museum, made possible by a million dollars in transportation funding Hyde-Smith said she helped secure.
The overall goal, according to organizers with the event, is to inspire Mississippi’s future leaders to explore and imagine what they can be.
“Not only are our children learning a new sport and skill, but they are also gaining tools that will aid them in being more confident and successful in school and ultimately in life,” said Monique Ealey, director of the educational team at the Children’s Museum. “When most think about the image of golf, the image of inner-city or underserved children on a course don’t really come to mind. But on Friday afternoons, if you visit the Mississippi Children’s Museum between 3:30 and 5:00 pm, that is exactly what you will see. "
Hosemann said lawmakers appropriated almost $38 million to fix up parks all over the state.
“You’ll see a huge investment in our parks and our public spaces in Mississippi, and that was something that we promised when people hired me to do this job. And now you’re seeing the fruition of it,” Hosemann said. “You get a golf club in [a young person’s] hand, they hit that little white ball the first time, and they become part of this. They’re outdoors. They’re getting exercise. They’re playing with people, they’re doing community things. It’s all good. That’s where we need to be.”
The Otter Creek Golf Park is slated to open in the fall of 2023.
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