BILOXI, MS (WLOX) - It opened to the public in November of 1977. Hard to believe, but the Mississippi Coast Coliseum in Biloxi is marking its 40 year anniversary. And, despite its age, the facility has plenty of promising years ahead.
It has been quite the memory-maker over the past four decades. Most everyone has a story about a favorite concert or special event at the Coliseum.
"When you think about how many kids have graduated here, how many young ladies have had their first dance recital here. How many people attended their first concert here or their first festival," said Executive Director Matt McDonnell.
Let's not forget hockey games, summer fair and expos, high school hoops and professional boxing.
"So many different activities, that without this building, the Mississippi Gulf Coast and all of its citizens would never have been able to experience those types of entertainment functions. Overall, for 40 years the building has held up very well and we've been able to maintain it at a level that the community has been proud of," said McDonnell, who has been with the Coliseum for 31 of its 40 years.
One key ingredient in this property's future has been talked about for years, but is getting close to reality.
"Getting a headquarters hotel built at the convention center is a top priority. Because we know it will make that convention center work even harder than it's already working," he said.
A long-running legend says that Elvis Presley was supposed to be the opening act at the Coliseum in November of 1977, but the death of the king in August of that year kept that from happening.
Matt McDonnell has never seen any evidence that that's true. So, who was the opening act that year?
"Charley Pride opened this building in November of 1977. And since that time, we've had so many different entertainers, so many family shows," said McDonnell. "And here we are, 2017, and the building is still going strong and looking good."
McDonnell said the community owes a debt of gratitude to the visionaries who laid the groundwork to build the Coliseum.
"Guys like Jim Simpson, Yankie Barhanovich, Tommy Gollott. Just those guys alone, plus many others had a dream that this would be something that would not only help the local community, but bring economic impact in the form of tourism," said McDonnell.
He believes the Coliseum's success is the result of hard work and a winning formula.
"It's got a good reputation in the industry for making money. Promoters know that we're flexible and we work with them to where they have an opportunity to make money. And that's a good ingredient for success, it really is."