Meridian Business Welcomes State Games

Abdul Lala, who owns at six motels in Meridian alone, said his businesses are 100% full for the State Games of Mississippi. And hotels and motels are not the only entities to benefit.

In fact, with a possible near record number of athletes expected, local business leaders say the games could also generate record revenues as well.

"When you turn over and look at the tax dollars that are generated from spending on food, gas, novelty items, any time they stop and go to Wal-Mart, that's going to mean money coming back into Meridian," said Skip Scaggs of the East Mississippi Business Development Corporation.

According to a survey in 2006, the State Games of Mississippi brought in more than $5.3 million over the two-weekend period. With anywhere from 4,700 to 5,000 athletes expected for this year's games, local business leaders say this is a win-win.

"The State Games pays at the top rate, and when you're running a business, they pay at the top rate. It's good for business," Lala said.

Every hotel room is filled and tourism officials say about two to three hundred additional rooms would be needed to house everyone involved and keep them in Meridian. Despite the current downturn in the economy, they say ongoing construction of more hotels will be beneficial.

"In the hotel industry, believe you me they do not even remotely look at a piece of property if they haven't done their homework and their research to warrant that," said tourism director Suzy Johnson.

Currently, Johnson says efforts are underway to open three new hotels in Meridian. One will be located on Highway 80, the other across from the mall and another along Frontage Road. She says two of the hotels are expected to be open within the next six months, followed by the third sometime next year.

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