MAEC Moves Ahead

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Board members continue moving forward with the Mississippi Arts and Entertainment Center, despite suffering disappointment when a $10 million bond bill failed to pass in the state Legislature.

"We knew it was a long shot this year. Several people in the arts tried for some of these bonds as well as a lot of other people for different issues with bonds. B.B. King for instance tried one. We knew it was a long shot and we went for it and we will do it again next year," said Paul Ott, MAEC board president.

The board held a strategic planning and board development meeting in Meridian Tuesday to prioritize and plan out the next steps.

Martinez and Johnson, an architectural firm out of Washington, D.C., along with Pryor and Morrow based in Columbus, Miss., designed the master plans for the center.

The next step would be for the architects to come in and create the schematic designs and begin the site work, but first, the board needs $2 million to sign that contract. Money they would have had, if the bond had passed.

"The next step would be the development of schematic designs which is the next step toward actual construction," said Duffee Williams of the architectural committee. "But we have a completed master plan, which we are very pleased with. And we are looking forward to being able to move forward with the next step."

With the master plan now in hand, it may be the key the board needs to continue making progress.

And now that the fundraising committee has something tangible to show off, it may make its job a little easier as corporations and private donors are approached for support.

"We have the Master plan now. We really haven't been in a position to go ask for money from private foundations and big companies, but now we have the master plan and we know where we are and where we are going. That's what people want to see."

After signing the contract for the schematic design, it is estimated that it will take about nine months before ground is broken for the site at Meridian's Bonita Lakes Park.