JACKSON — It is likely this week Gov. Ronnie Musgrove will have on his desk House Bill 1007, which allows the state-controlled Stadium Commission to negotiate a land lease to build a $24-million hockey arena on the open end of the 62,000-seat Mississippi Veterans Memorial stadium.
The Senate voted 31-16 to pass the bill, and if a land lease is negotiated, the state will put up $3.8 million in bonds to pay for locker rooms and other improvements to the stadium in addition to the $10 million it is currently responsible for. The City of Jackson would put up $6 million and the hockey team $8 million. But a deal for the site has not been put together yet.
Brad Ewing, the Bandits’ general manager, said the House bill only makes it more difficult to come to a decision on which site to choose.
“It’s flattering to know that it’s a project that is wanted, but we’ve still got a lot of work to do to get this thing finished off,” he said.
The 35-acre site near I-20 in Pearl is still a possibility for the Bandits, Ewing said.
“Our perspective on it is that we have to look at those opportunities in their totality. Using the stadium site as an example, we know what the framework is but we don’t know the detail,” he said. “For example, it’s one thing to say that we will pay fair market value; it’s another thing altogether to put a number on that. It doesn’t lessen our burden to do our job of giving the packages a thorough evaluation.”
But, Ewing said, choosing a site is all about putting the arena in a position to thrive. Until all the information is known, however, it will be difficult to make such an assessment.
“It certainly creates a new level of work, of seriousness if you will, that has to be done by really digging down into the detail of that as a site.”
Ewing said Rankin County legislators have been supportive to a certain extent of the land lease legislation.
“The folks who represent the Rankin County area were supportive to an extent of the stadium legislation because they recognize that having the new venue is important,” he said. “What’s most important is that it gets done.”
This comes just as the Bandits are about to enter the playoffs, which may begin for them as early as the middle of this week depending on their seeding. That as well as other factors make it hard for Ewing to put a timetable on when the decision will be made.
“The decision will be made when we feel we have enough information to make a good decision. We’ll work on it as feverishly as all the parties can work on it because we want to know that information. We want to be smart about our decision.”
Contact MBJ staff writer Elizabeth Kirkland at firstname.lastname@example.org or (601) 364-1042.