Meridian, Miss. Fundraising for the long-awaited Mississippi Arts and Entertainment Center began in 2013, though the final product is still years away. MAEC officials are getting the support of state tourism leaders in hoping that it will be a major success when it does finally open.
Since fundraising efforts started last year, almost $13 million has been pledged and that total could increase as fundraising is continually expanded statewide.
The fundraising has been very successful in Meridian, and the hope is it will continue to be successful as it is expanded. Whether it be through private donations or state funding, the fundraising will continue to be the backbone of the center.
With hopes of going statewide soon, the president of the MAEC board, Tommy Dulaney, already has a plan of action.
"Starting in March we actually are moving out statewide, although we've had a couple of meetings outside of Meridian," said Dulaney. "Starting in March we are really going to have an emphasis. We have the names of a hundred corporations that we'll be calling on the rest of this year."
With fundraising being successful, the hopes are for everything to stay right on track for the opening of the center.
With 2017 being the bicentennial of Mississippi, the Arts and Entertainment Center would be a great addition, along with two other events planned for the celebration. The director of the Mississippi Tourism Bureau, Malcolm White, said he believes the center will be successful, because Mississippians are forced to be creative.
"We are so creative because we have struggled so hard," said White, Mississippi tourism director. "We have been forced to entertain ourselves to be storytellers. I think Mississippi is 2.9 million storytellers and I think that's a lot of it."
With the additions of this center, the director has said it will not only tell the story of Mississippians, but the story of Meridian.
The cost of the new Mississippi Arts and Entertainment Center is estimated to be about $44 million. It will be 58,500 square feet. It's set to open sometime in 2017.