Last month, state lawmakers killed a bill to allow the Mississippi Coast Coliseum and Convention Center to access a $7 million trust fund. Some of that money was to be used to build a parking lot behind the Coliseum. Despite losing access to those funds, Coliseum officials plan to build the parking lot anyway.
Thanks to a deal worked out on a nearby property, parking hasn't been an issue, but officials are taking steps to prevent parking problems in the future.
"We anticipate a hotel coming in the property behind me, and when that does happen we need to be ready to replace the 340-some car lot with another lot," Executive Director Bill Holmes said. "So we do have one that the commission has been working for two years, and we've purchased all the houses out of our operational budget because we've had great years. But what we were looking for was a cushion."
Holmes said that the $7 million cushion in the trust fund isn't necessary to start the work on the new parking lot.
"If we had a major storm, we have major deductibles on the facilities that we would have to draw off, and right now we only have about a $2 million balance in the bank. So that's what that was all about," Holmes said.
Holmes said the demolition of the property where the new lot will go is estimated to begin the third week of May, and it'll take another four weeks for the parking lot to go online.
Meanwhile, the Coliseum isn't currently having any parking issues.
"It's not hurting us because we're still using the old Holiday Inn property as a satellite parking spot, and we're also using the old Broadwater golf course as another satellite spot. So parking has not been an issue," Holmes said.
Holmes said with their new plan, construction isn't expected to take long.
"It's been well thought out. You know, the convenience of the patrons, the safety of the patrons is very important to us, and the only way that you can plan for the future is to have a vision and foresee things. And that's what we do," Holmes said.
State lawmakers say the bill to give Coliseum officials access to the trust fund is expected to pass in the next legislative session.
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