Coliseum Recommended Expansion To Cost $72M - WLOX.com - The News for South Mississippi

10/24/03

Coliseum Recommended Expansion To Cost $72M

Last month's national guard convention barely fit in the coliseum's 118,000 square feet of exhibition space. Three thousand people squeezed into the building. To make room for a state dinner, exhibits had to be removed.

"When the National Guard was here, it was one of the biggest meetings they ever had. They had a total experience because we could provide that experience but they can't come back because we don't have the space," Coliseum Director Bill Holmes says.

The coliseum study shows the facility is far behind 12 competing arenas. To change that, the company that conducted the research says the coliseum must grow.

John Kaatz of Conventions, Sports and Leisure International says, "Even with all the space you've got ranks very low relative to your competition and not only that, but again, the competition is expanding beyond that."

Now that the recommendation is on the table, the question is where does the $72 million come from to pay for a coliseum expansion. A couple of options including increasing the hotel tax two percent and creating a one percent tax on food and drinks in restaurants.

Those in the hotel and restaurant industries say they're ready for more coliseum space, but not quite ready to commit helping pay for it.

"Voluntarily, we've lobbied to have taxes placed upon ourselves and I don't see this as any exception but we will be looking at it," Linda Hornsby of the Hotel Association says.

"We need to take this back to our members and talk to 'em. We're definitely in favor of the expansion. We definitely think it's needed," Restaurant Association member Richard Chenoweth says.

ByMarcia Hill

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