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State Could Reclaim Land Housing Jackson’s Smith-Wills Stadium

The State of Mississippi now has the right to repossess the land Jackson’s Smith-Wills Stadium sits on if it chooses. The issue comes a decade after community members and city leaders debated over a proposal to commercialize and open a Costco on the land where the stadium sits just off Lakeland Drive.

House Bill 1983, a bond bill also known as a legislative capital investment package, included several projects across the city. Reeves signed the bill into law on May 13, 2024. It also included a clause that opens a path for the State to reclaim the land where the 49-year-old stadium sits.

Rep. Chris Bell, D-Jackson, told the Mississippi Free Press on May 22, 2024, that legislative leaders added a clause that appears to allow the state to repossess the land housing Smith-Will Stadium “at the last minute.” “It was not in the original bill that we received,” he said. Photo courtesy of State of Mississippi

But Rep. Christopher Bell, D-Jackson, told the Mississippi Free Press on Wednesday that legislative leaders added the clause mentioning ownership of the land to the bill “at the last minute” during a committee meeting before the Legislature voted on the final bill and sent it to the governor’s desk.

“It was not in the original bill that we received,” Bell said. “They agreed upon certain projects being in the bond bill which we all had championed for. For them to do this, it was pretty disrespectful.”

While Bell said it is not uncommon for legislators to add last-minute sections to a bill before a final vote to send it to the governor, he believes this particular choice is another attempted scheme for the state to take over parts of the capital city.

‘It Kind of Hit Me Out of Left Field’

Section 22 of House Bill 1983 appears to say that the state can garnish ownership of the parcel of land if they find it is not being used for the purposes outlined in a 1944 deed.

Part (a) of the section states the land was transferred “by the State Mineral Lease Commission

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