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Jackson’s new convention center is impressive

City, chamber, civic and community leaders have spoken with a common theme. The new Jackson Convention Complex, by any definition they said, is going to be impressive.

It is.

And praise for the sprawling facility, set to host the Greater Jackson Chamber Partnership’s annual meeting Jan. 14 as its first event, and to stage its own gala grand opening Jan. 15-17, may be understated. Simply put, the new complex is remarkable, pushing Jackson into an entirely different league as an events host and providing a catalyst that will no doubt spark the re-birth of an energized core capital city.

Start with the numbers.

Building square footage totals 330,000 and is diverse enough in its two-floor design to host as many as 25 separate events at one time. A 60,000-square-foot exhibit hall can be divided into two 30,000-square-foot sites, increased to 85,000 square feet (capacity 5,000 people; 425 10-foot square exhibit spaces) by adding the ballroom or expanded to 118,000 square feet by using the pre-function lobby and registration space.

For comparison, a 100-yard college football field and its end zones total 57,600 square feet.

But that doesn’t mean only huge events can be scheduled in what will commonly be known as the JCC.

Ten 1,000-square-foot meeting rooms will be available as will two permanent 20-person board rooms. And an outdoor second-floor patio will offer a pleasant change of pace as well.

A 12,000-square-foot kitchen, managed by Savor Jackson Catering, will support four other satellite food locations and provide all food services necessary to accommodate all guests and events. Also available will be more than $3.1 million in furnishings that includes more than 5,000 chairs and a corresponding number of tables. More than 1,500 parking spaces are within walking distance.

But more than just numbers, the JCC is about quality, as well.

Three main entrances will serve the facility that merges the center and the existing three-year-old TelCom Center with state-of-the-art visual screens and 32 50-inch high definition plasma television sets offering not only directional data but messages about places to visit, shop, eat and explore in Jackson.

Gray carpet tiles provide the same floor pattern as outdoor pavers. Fabric-covered acoustical panels eliminate warehouse echo concerns in the huge halls and all utility wiring is underground. A unique rigging system removes the need for stacked speakers, improves event visibility and will help transform the ballroom into whatever theme might be necessary for special events.

Sensors monitor room occupancy, humidity and air quality control. And energy-efficient lighting, a reflective white roof rejects heat and the use of building materials high in recycled content are examples of how green and environmentally friendly the center will be.

Already, the theme of “Where Mississippi Meets the World” has caught the attention of state and regional meeting and event planners. More than 60 events, starting with the 1,500-person chamber function and the all-day free grand opening that is expected to attract 20,000 people. Twenty more dates have been booked for 2009.

When plans for a new hotel, retail, office and parking complex are formerly announced — joining the opening and refurbishment of places like the Edison and King Edward — interest will increase even more.

It’s quite a commitment, one that elevates the capital city into a bright, progressive spotlight.

Contact MBJ editor/publisher Ed Darling at ed.darling@msbusiness.com.

About Ed Darling

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