The owner of one of Meridian's most historic buildings says the Temple Theatre could serve the community better wtih the support of a larger organization.
Roger Smith purchased the Temple Theatre from the local Hamasa Shrine five years ago. Since then, he has been able to attract a variety of shows and events to the venue. However, he's now exploring an option for the site which he feels could best serve the community.
When Roger Smith purchased the Temple Theatre in 2009 he was a semi-retired businessman from Dallas, Texas. He paid $500,000 for the building. Since then he says the number of events held there has increased. Hosting things such as: the inauguration for city leaders, the state program that's formerly known as Junior Miss, some big name artists and annual shows, Smith says he has spoken with local government leaders about taking over the property.
"Meridian doesn't have a municipal auditorium so to speak or a convention center, and so it kind of serves as a neutral meeting ground for various groups, art groups, civic groups, you know the blood drive and things like that," says Smith. "The most responsible thing would be for a college, or the city or the county to acquire the theatre and take it over because the city really does need an auditorium or a central meeting place, which it really doesn't have. It doesn't have a large auditorium where they can hold functions and so on."
Although Smith says the best thing would be for a college or government entity to acquire the property, he says such a plan is currently not in the works.
"Of course, everybody is in a kind of conservative mode now with trying to figure out the budgets and so on, but there's interest in various arenas, even from the state, even the governor is interested; it would be the most logical thing," says Smith. "We need a larger infrastructure behind the theatre other than just me; I'm one person. We need more community leaders that are in a position financially to help restore the theatre. I've done a lot to the theatre, but here again, I'm one person."
Calling the Temple Theatre a gem, Smith says the structure is something that realistically cannot be replaced at this time. In fact, to do so he estimates that it would cost about $70 million to build a new one just like it.
"So, it's an irreplaceable gem, and it is very important because for a city to be strong it must have a strong, healthy, vibrant downtown area."
The Temple Theatre was built in 1928. It was put on the National Register of Historic Places in 1979.