Hattiesburg, Mississippi – On Thursday, November 2, 2023, several community leaders, tennis players and pickleball competitors alike joined Mayor Toby Barker and Hattiesburg Parks and Recreation staff to cut the ribbon on new courts for tennis and pickleball at Kamper Park. The morning also included the rededication of the Bubba Phillips Tennis Complex.
“There are rare occasions that we get to bring the history of Hattiesburg together with the new and ever-changing future of Hattiesburg for an event that leans back into our history and tells the story of those who brought us here to a new audience – specifically those of us who didn’t live here at that time,” said Mayor Toby Barker.
With 340,000 pounds of concrete and steel making up the new courts, Kamper Park is now home to championship-grade courts and 40 new LED lights that provide high-quality foot candle coverage of the courts. New netting and poles have also been installed, along with ADA-accessible ramps.
The total cost of the renovated complex was $500,000 and was fully funded by the 1-cent restaurant and hotel/motel tax passed by voters in April of 2019 for parks and recreation projects.
The courts are free to use and are open seven days a week, from sunrise until 10 p.m. Court availability is based on a first-come, first-served use.
The naming of the Bubba Phillips Tennis Complex was originally approved when the Hattiesburg City Council voted unanimously to name the site in honor of local sports hero and involved community leader, John Melvin “Bubba” Phillips, on November 2, 1993.
Born in West Point, Mississippi, Phillips graduated from Macon High School where he was a football standout and softball player in 1946. He was awarded a football scholarship to the University of Southern Mississippi (then Mississippi Southern College) and was a multi-sport athlete.
Phillips was a distinguished collegiate athlete who went on to play professional baseball, from 1955 through 1964, for the following teams: Detroit Tigers, Chicago White Sox and Cleveland Indians (now Guardians). After his professional career, he resided in Hattiesburg and spent much of his life teaching tennis to children and adults in Hattiesburg through city programming. He died on June 22, 1993.
Having an impact on many families throughout Hattiesburg, the complex was dedicated posthumously. Attributing further to the impact he had on so many, he was later inducted into the Mississippi Sports Hall of Fame in 1972.
Barker added, “Today was a good day. We love sharing progress, specifically progress that derives from collaboration and the enhancement of quality of life. This renovated space with brand-new courts will be here for generations to come. While that’s an incredible achievement, celebrating the life of a beloved Hattiesburger makes it all a little sweeter.”
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