Coast Coliseum director says economic slump hurting and helping

By Danielle Thomas - bio | email

BILOXI, MS (WLOX) - The Coast Coliseum and Convention Center is weathering the good with the bad in this economic downturn. Several conventions that were to come to Biloxi have bowed out.

Hundreds of people left the Garden and Patio Show over the weekend carrying their favorite plants and flowers. A few yards away, construction crews were busy adding square footage to the Coast Convention Center.

Director Bill Holmes said, "We were planning on taking it over in November. Because of some of the downturn in the private sector, what's happened now is Yates Construction has moved more of their people here to the job. So it's looking now the first of July we'll have the convention center turned over."

Holmes says because of the expansion, some conventions have already been booked for late summer and early fall. That is tapered by the fact a slumping economy has caused other conventions to bail out.

"We've lost three conventions this summer and fall, educational conventions that were cut severely in some of their budgets," he said.

The coast could actually taking advantage of the economic downturn. Holmes says he's looking to market to groups looking to downsize their meetings and conventions.

"We're going to go out and see some of the larger conventions are going to downsize. We need to be on top of that," Holmes said. "Where they were going to a million square foot facility, now we have 400,000 square foot to offer. "

"We have to get creative. We have to get competitive. We have to get aggressive."

Coliseum Director Bill Holmes says he is hoping to add more staffing when the construction is complete.

He says many of the shows and concerts are doing well. Tickets for country music singer Taylor Swift's upcoming show sold out in four minutes and thousands went to see comedian Jeff Dunham on Saturday night.