Bill Holmes: "Untie Our Hands, Let Us Expand." - WLOX.com - The News for South Mississippi

02/20/04

Bill Holmes: "Untie Our Hands, Let Us Expand."

"We're constantly turning business away cause we're not large enough under one roof to handle people like the American Farm Bureau, five thousand people strong, 10-thousand rooms." 

As crews set up for three separate events in the convention center, Bill Holmes says he doesn't lack for business, but something just as critical. 

"We just don't have enough space."

Holmes says a 72-million dollar expansion would solve that. 2-hundred thousand extra square feet would put him in the same competitive league as Nashville, Houston and Atlanta. He could then bring in bigger shows like the Natural Agricultural Aviation Group that right now he can't squeeze into his 180-thousand square feet. 

"They're dyin' to get in here but the ceilings are only 20 feet tall, they need at least a 30 feet ceiling height and they need a much bigger span because of the wings and stuff like that of the equipment they bring in."

Holmes says a three percent hotel tax would finance the expansion. Updating the 27-year old coliseum arena is in the plans too. The old seats would go. 

"They're startin' to become frayed. This whole area, everything would be completely changed out."

The old bathrooms would go. 

"We would gut out all these fixtures and everything and all the toilets."  

And the old performers dressing rooms would go too. 

"We'll do new cabinets, we'll do new ceilings, everything, lighting, everything would be gutted out of this whole area."

Holmes knows his vision is very ambitious, but he says the business is here to support the investment. 

"Untie our hands. Why do we have to be last is what I'm tryin' to tell people. We can be first."

Holmes says right now his space availability allows him to acccommodate only 35 percent of the convention business. He says if he can expand, that number will go up to 85 percent.

byMarcia Hill

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