Despite challenges, Mississippi coliseum and fairgrounds find niche
by Associated Press
Published: February 3,2012
Tags: Billy Orr, Cindy Hyde-Smith, Danny Torgerson, Dixie National Livestock Show and Rodeo, Mississippi, Mississippi Business Journal, Mississippi Coliseum, Mississippi Development Authority, Mississippi Trade Mart, Monster Truck Entertainment, Phoenix, State Fair Commission, Tiger Woods
JACKSON — It’s the place where many baby boomers attended their first concert as teenagers or young adults. Not much has changed over the 48-year history of the state-owned Mississippi Coliseum at the fairgrounds.
Today, people are still attending events at the aging coliseum, but the venue no longer is a stop on most major concert tours.
A big reason Jackson is being bypassed is the Coliseum’s limited capacity – 10,000 seats for concerts and 6,500 seats for most other events.
Recently, a monster truck show was held at the Coliseum and people were turned away because of sold-out shows on Friday and Saturday.
Event organizer Danny Torgerson, owner of Monster Truck Entertainment of Phoenix, said the Coliseum is a “great building.”
“It was perfectly sufficient for us,” Torgerson said of the Coliseum.
The Coliseum is used for events such as rodeos, concerts and the annual high school basketball playoffs.
Torgerson said he should have added a third day given the venue’s capacity.
“We will be back next year and we will have three days instead of two,” Torgerson. “We’re from out West. We were blown away about how friendly the people are in Jackson.”
Torgerson said a bigger building would be nice, but the Coliseum fit their needs.
Fairgrounds officials have said the limited number of seats would make ticket prices too costly for major national tours.
For that reason and others, the city of Jackson will spend $110,000 to study building an arena that could attract national concerts and other events.
One of the biggest annual events is the Dixie National Livestock Show and Rodeo.
The Coliseum sits on the state fairgrounds, which is operated by the State Fair Commission.
The building had is last major renovation in 1997 when the copper roof was completed.
Fair Commission Executive Director Billy Orr said since his return in 2009 several major interior upgrades have been made, including new flooring, renovation of restrooms, a new central heating system and a new electrical system.
“It’s a well-made building,” Orr said.
He said he wants to upgrade seating and install a new sound system at the facility.
State Agriculture Commissioner Cindy Hyde-Smith, a former state senator from Brookhaven elected in November, has begun taking preliminary steps to sell naming rights for buildings at the fairgrounds.
She said it could provide additional funding that could bring older buildings like the Coliseum and Mississippi Trade Mart up to speed.
Hyde-Smith said there has been a meeting with the Mississippi Development Authority.
Hyde-Smith said she envisioned a 10-year deal for a business to have naming rights to the Coliseum. A company would pay an annual fee for the right to have its name on the building.
“It’s an old building, but it’s a great location,” Hyde-Smith said.
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