Mississippi Valley State University Plans Golf Project

According to a November 21 article in the Greenwood (Miss.) Commonwealth, Mississippi Valley State University is planning to develop a golf course, hotel, recreation area and nature center on a 250-acre tract the school owns. MVSU has requested $21.75 million from the U.S. Department of the Interior for the project.

According to David Monroe, editor of the newspaper, the project has received favorable support. Dr. Moses Newsome, vice president for research, planning, community and economic development, is overseeing the project for the university. The proposed site adjacent to the campus contains wetlands. Under a proposed timeline, the four-phase project would be completed by the end of 2009.

The development is expected to serve as a golf destination, while adding jobs and expanding recreational and cultural offerings to the area around the campus in Itta Bena. Newsome said it would give a big boost not only to Leflore County, but to the Delta. "This can only help the university, can only help the local economy," he told Monroe. "As the university grows, the community grows; as the community grows, the Delta grows."

Dan Harrison, chief officer of higher education and park initiatives at the National Park Service, said the proposal is being evaluated. "It is very deserving of us taking a look at it, and we will be doing that," he said. Harrison said MVSU has sent a great deal of information to Washington D.C., and his office has sent ideas back. His office will "shoot from the hip and let them know what we think," he said.

Newsome said the idea of a golf course came from the university's president, Dr. Lester C. Newman. The other components of the project were added gradually. The first phase, on which work would begin in 2005, includes a nature center with trails and hands-on educational sites for students of all ages. The "outdoor classroom" would be available to students throughout the state. There also would be an environmental study area that scientists could use to identify species and habitats of greatest conservation concerns.

The project's second phase, an 18-hole public golf course, would be modeled after the Widows Walk Golf Course in Scituate, Me. It would be the second "environmental demonstration course" in the country. The land has been studied and identified as a suitable site, and the Institutions of Higher Learning and the Legislature have approved it, assuming necessary funding is secured.

Newsome said the course would help the MVSU golf team, which now has to practice in Greenville. The university plans to add curricula in golf course management and hotel management in conjunction with the additions. The facility has already generated interest from golfers in Greenwood and Greenville, as well as university alumni, staff and faculty.

In the third phase, a picnic area and wildlife reserve would be added, with recreational areas suitable for family and community events. A lake would be built and stocked with bass, crappie, bream and/or catfish. The final phase proposes a hotel and conference center. The MVSU campus is now a popular site for conferences and other events, but it can’t handle larger crowds and doesn’t provide visitors a place to stay.

Newsome said the hotel, to be built along U.S. 82, would accommodate up to 150 guests and include a ballroom with 500 to 750 seats and a meeting-catering facility. Other features include exercise facilities and Internet access. The conference center would be adaptable for large or small events, including entertainment. It also would be linked to the golf course's clubhouse.

"Rather than spread people out in Greenwood, Greenville and Indianola, we want to have a large meeting space – what we call an amphitheater arrangement," Newsome said. Newsome added that the whole complex is designed to be "something that would give people a reason to stop on 82" or pull off the interstate – whether to spend the night, attend a specific event or just rest in a recreation area.

The university expects to receive $4.2 million from the state and private sources to support infrastructure development for the golf and recreation additions.

Harrison, who seeks out institutions for possible partnerships with the government, said he is impressed with Mississippi Valley State so far. He plans to visit the campus, although no date has been set. Harrison said he spoke to Newman in September at a conference on historically black colleges and universities. Also, Harrison said, "I had read some things about Mississippi Valley State, and I had the opportunity to listen to a presentation presented by someone on their faculty."

Later, Harrison and Newman met and discussed the school, its courses and projects being considered there, including some related to wildlife and the environment. Newsome said that once the university's wish list was shared with people in the Department of the Interior, they became more excited about it. After hearing that some of the plan involved wetlands, "that's when their eyes kind of lit up," he said. "They like to be involved in any project that preserves wetlands."

Newsome said the university made a good impression with its interest in preserving the environment and linking education with cultural and historic preservation in a rural setting. The improvement of the quality of life with all the outdoor activities was another point in the project's favor, he said.

"They've had experience with golf courses and parks, but they've never had this package before," he said.