By JACK WEATHERLY
With the receipt of the last installment of a $30 million bond issue, the Mississippi Trade Mart will be razed and replaced by a facility attached to the Mississippi Coliseum.
The 66,000-square-foot exhibit hall built in 1975 is outmoded and its flat roof tends to leak, according to Cindy Hyde-Smith, commissioner of Agriculture and Commerce.
A new Trade Mart would be attached to the east side of the Coliseum, and the old hall, located north of the arena across a parking lot, will remain open during construction, Hyde-Smith said.
Work could start by the end of the year, she said, with completion about 18 months later.
The commission is to get the last of three $10 million payments this year from a general obligation bond issue approved by the Legislature in 2015.
The new Trade Mart will be more energy efficient and will have wi-fi, taller bays and a state-of-the-art kitchen that will serve both the hall and the Coliseum.
The Coliseum underwent about $4 million in improvements, including new restrooms, concession areas, an additional elevator, and a new front facade.
Those improvements were made to comply with the Americans With Disabilities Act, according to Rick Reno, executive director of the fair commission.
The House of Representatives approved a $51 million bond issue two years for coliseum improvements and a new Trade Mart. However, the measure died in a Senate committee.
The poor condition of seating in the Coliseum, built in 1962, is still a problem, Reno said.
Reno has to cannabilize “nose-bleed” seating for lower seating because the company that installed it 55 years ago is no longer in business.
The commission has advertised for bids on portable seating, so-called risers. The bond issues that already have been made allows for that and the bids may be received as early as March, he said.
Meantime, the Coliseum has booked 20 “public ticket events,” including eight shows as part of the Dixie National Rodeo, for 2017, Reno said.
Reno said he is working on private sponsorships, in exchange for naming rights, for upgrading the facility.
“We are an old building, and there are a number of challenges,” Reno said.
Reno has a long career in managing such facilities, including 16 years at Rupp Arena in Lexington, Ky., a 23,000-seat arena, and seven years at the Crown Complex in Fayetteville, N.C., which includes a 10,000-seat coliseum, a 5,000-seat arena and a 2,400-seat theater.
“I’ve been able to come in and move the facilities to the next level,” he said.
Reno, who was named director two and one-half years ago, said, “I really think we are on the cusp of moving to the next level.”
There are no architectural renderings yet, but Hyde-Smith said she expects construction bids to be advertised within 90 days.
“I can tell you one thing – it won’t have a flat roof,” Hyde-Smith said.
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