Expanded convention center a "diamond" on the beach

By Steve Phillips - bio | email

BILOXI, MS (WLOX) - Construction continues at the Mississippi Coast Coliseum and Convention Center. Once the work is finished next spring, Director Bill Holmes said it will be one of the "finest facilities in America"

The expansion will more than double the convention center meeting space. Plans also include a long awaited 450 space parking garage that's now under construction.

The total project cost is around  $108 million and everything should be finished by early April next year.

"I've described this as the 'diamond on the beach,'" Coliseum and Convention Center Director Bill Holmes said. "This is absolutely going to be one of the finest meeting facilities in America."

Much of the convention center expansion is already finished or nearly complete. It will increase the meeting space from 180,000 square feet to 400,000 square feet.

"When there's a big function, now we have a big facility to take care of it," said a smiling Holmes.

That new space is flexible, to meet the needs of convention planners.

"Move walls. Put doors where you want to. You can create corridors. And it's all sound proof stuff. And equipment, it's all brand new. You can take your laptop and walk anywhere in this 400,000 square feet and never lose a signal."

Holmes said the Coliseum Convention Center is an "economic engine" for the tourism industry on the Mississippi Gulf Coast. He predicts this expansion will help ignite an explosion of related development in West Biloxi.

"We've got a lot of hotel developers now that are extremely interested in sites around us, as well as on our grounds, that we're dealing with. And I'm telling you that West Biloxi and what we call the 'convention district' is going to explode within the next two years. You will see a tremendous amount of development," Holmes said.

What looks like waves of steel will be transformed into the east lobby with a 20,000 square foot reception area.

On the west side of the property, concrete pilings are in place for the new three story, 450 space parking garage.

As the building continues, the convention center is busy booking business.

"In January, we have four days where all 400,000 square foot is completely booked. And that's what we want.  And when people get to see it, when it's completely done, they're going to be very, very happy with what they've got."

Bill Holmes said the contractors have been very good about working around convention clients. For instance, they'll do some quiet welding rather than noisy riveting, when meetings are booked.

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