The future of the Mississippi Trade Mart may be no future at all, say state officials who want to demolish the circa 1970s exhibit hall and conference center and replace it with a new building connected to the Mississippi Coliseum.
Agriculture & Commerce Secretary Cindy Hyde-Smith is campaigning for a $48-million revamp of the 52-year-old Coliseum — an effort she vows to continue next year after falling short in this year’s Legislature. While the Coliseum is top priority for now, she insists it makes fiscal sense to build a new trade mart, whether at the same time as the Coliseum work or afterward.
She said estimates she has received show fixing up the aging 70,000 square-foot Trade Mart would cost $8 million to $9 million, because of “all the electrical and roof issues.”
Building a new one of similar size would run from
$12 million to $15 million, Hyde-Smith said estimates show.
Her vision is to connect a new trade mart to the Coliseum to gain more synergy of use and to convert the space now occupied by the Trade Mart to surface parking.
“The Trade Mart has been so successful for us. We just want to continue on with that,” she said.
The plan would be to keep the Trade Mart open as a new one is getting built. Demolition would occur after the new one opens, thus preventing any cancellation of events.
Meanwhile, Jackson’s March 18 hailstorm battered the roof of the Trade Mart and worsened an already-bothersome water leakage problem. Further, the damage “possibly compromised the durability of the roof for the future,” said Andy Prosser, deputy agriculture secretary.
Insurance adjustors and representatives of the Mississippi Bureau of Building and Grounds inspected the roof a couple of weeks ago. The Trade Mart is still waiting to learn the extent of the needed repairs, according to Prosser.
“It could be we’ll need a new roof,” he said.
Jake Hutchins, deputy director of the State Fairgrounds, said he thinks that a temporary shutdown of the Trade Mart will be unnecessary, even if a new roof must be installed.
The difficulty could be with the air conditioning units on the roof that Hutchins says are nearly the size “of train cars.”