Update on Arts & Entertainment Center

The proposed design for the Mississippi Arts and Entertainment Center was revealed to local leaders at the East Mississippi Business Development Corporation's Business Before Hours breakfast Tuesday morning. Complete with two levels, a multi-purpose room, gift shop, stationary and traveling exhibits and a recording studio, the estimated cost for the project is between $30 million and $40 million dollars.

'It's going to be the Nissan project for the state of Mississippi,' says Mississippi Entertainer Paul Ott, 'because when you induct and have a black tie affair, like the Kennedy awards and in that center, and you have Faith Hill, Oprah Winfrey and all these other people coming, it's going to be worldwide, black tie, it's going to be something else for Meridian and the state of Mississippi and I'm proud of it.'

Paul Ott has been on the Mississippi Arts and Entertainment Center Board for the past ten years. Despite concerns from some that the project will not come to fruition, Ott and other board leaders say that's not true.

'It is going to happen and it is going to happen in Meridian for the state,' says Ott.

'I understand their concern, but it is going to happen. We are really going full steam forward now,' says Mississippi Arts & Entertainment Center Director Marty Gamblin.

Set to open next to the 22nd Avenue bridge and the train tracks in downtown Meridian, officials say once the Mississippi Arts and Entertainment Center is open, it's going to have a large beaming light gleaming from the center of it that will be able to be seen clearly from the interstate.

With all the groundwork for the project now finished, MAEC Board members say next on the agenda is the kickoff of a fundraising campaign.

"We'll probably have to raise about $15 million to $20 million outside and then try to go to funding sources that are federal and corporate sponsorships throughout the country, but the good thing is that this is a project that wakens the world, so we don't have to do it all right here,' says Gamblin.

An exact date for the fundraising campaign kickoff is expected to be set soon.

Efforts to establish the Mississippi Arts and Entertainment Center started in 2001. In 2005 the Mississippi House approved a 2% food and beverage tax to help fund the project; state lawmakers later approved $4 million for some of the work. Site development for the center started last October with the demolition of Hotel Meridian. At this time a projected date for construction to start has yet to be announced.