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Proposed stadium could kill downtown arena initiative

JACKSON — Jackson State University’s recently announced plans to build a domed stadium could effectively kill an effort to build a downtown arena.

The city and other arena backers have spent or pledged $180,000 in recent years to study building an arena to host concerts, sporting events and other entertainment, The Clarion-Ledger reported.

The key factor in the city of Jackson supporting the university’s plans is that it would only have to pay $10 million toward the university stadium, Mayor Harvey Johnson Jr. said. A feasibility study in January estimated that a 9,000-seat arena would cost the city $115 million.

JSU wants to build a $200 million, 50,000-seat domed stadium.

Duane O’Neill, executive director of the Greater Jackson Chamber Partnership, said the arena option should stay open in case the university’s plans run into unexpected difficulties. A bill providing $75 million in state bonds for the stadium died in the state House, but could become part of a larger colleges-and-universities bonding bill.

The university has engaged SMG, which runs the Superdome in New Orleans and Chicago’s Soldier Field as well as the Jackson Convention Complex, to oversee the stadium. The company’s experience at major venues could help the university’s facility land the kinds of events the city has long sought, supporters say.

“We don’t see it as a stadium just for Jackson State University,” David Hoard, vice president for institutional advancement, has said. “We see it as an investment for the city and (Hinds County) and the region. The economic impact will be dramatic.”

O’Neill acknowledges metro Jackson isn’t big enough for both venues, particularly as renovations are planned for the aging Mississippi Coliseum. But a venue able to bring events that typically bypass Jackson for larger Southern cities is a centerpiece of the city’s future, along with a hotel to serve the convention complex and mixed-use development along a manmade lake, he said.

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