- Associated Press - Thursday, August 7, 2014

OCEAN SPRINGS, Miss. (AP) - At least three Ocean Springs business owners will foot the $200 per month bill to allow a group of residents to continue playing pickup soccer games at the city’s Freedom Field.

Mayor Connie Moran said Wednesday the contributions from the owners of Solar Control, Big Shirley’s Restaurant and Big O’s Sports Bar will result in not only the lights at Freedom Field staying on at night but also those at the Martin Luther King Jr. Park basketball court.

Moran has said the Parks & Recreation Department was already $7,000 over its electricity budget, with two more months left in the fiscal year.

She said the city is looking into changing the lights out at several parks to make them more energy efficient.

Along with Freedom Field, the city had to turn the lights off at four other parks to cut down on energy costs. Moran said those four will remain closed for now.

Spencer Buskirk, who heads up the soccer group, said he is excited people will be able to use the park at night again, but still has concerns about the future of the field.

“”I greatly appreciate the sponsorship and the generosity of those folks. But at the same time, we don’t want that to be a permanent fix - that the city is relying on private businesses to now run the parks. I have a strong objection to paying the city to use a public field. Hopefully, the city can work out its budget issues so we don’t have to rely on a sponsor to use a public facility,” Buskirk said.

The business owners said they felt compelled to help once they found out how many citizens used the park.

“I think soccer is a great sport for anybody to play. Men, women, boys, girls, any age. It keeps everybody in shape, and it keeps them off the street and gives everybody some fun to enjoy themselves,” said Joe Williams, owner of Solar Control.

“This is my new home, Ocean Springs. And there’s no way I can come here and take all the beauty and leave without putting something back,” said Michael Dummett, the owner of Big Shirley’s.

Oren Zweig, who owns Big O’s, said he understands that running a city is expensive, and feels as a community member and business owner he should pitch in.

Copyright © 2016 The Washington Times, LLC.

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