Officials overseeing the renovation of the BancorpSouth Arena project presented Tupelo City Council members with a final bid package of $15.2 million at a special called council work session on Thursday.
Todd Hunt, the executive director of the arena, told council members the project has been a “long time coming” since work toward the renovation had been discussed since 2014, and he’s happy to see the project starting to come together.
Within the $15.2 million budget, approximately $14.3 million will go toward constructing a new conference center, around $561,000 will go toward renovating the current conference center, $109,000 will go toward adding LED lights around a tower on the property and $223,000 will go toward renovating bathrooms inside of the main arena.
“I think this project will enhance our ability to attract larger meetings and events,” Jordan told the Daily Journal after the meeting.
Casey Rogers, the construction manager for the project, said the approximately 27 bids for the 12 different project packages were submitted, with each package going toward a contractor or construction company.
The renovation project is being conducted differently than other city projects have previously been conducted. For this project, the 12 different project packages will each be handled by a different company, with Rogers acting as the manager. Previously, the city has conducted most projects with only one construction company overseeing the entire project.
“Doing the project this way allowed us to get closer to our goal of having a total conference space of 15,000 square feet,” Hunt said.
Previously, the council voted to reject a drywall package that came in at approximately $2.2 million. The new bid for the drywall package came in at $1.7 million. Hunt told the council he plans to keep the remaining $500,000 in reserves in case the project goes over budget.
Mayor Jason Shelton told the Daily Journal after the meeting he is excited about the project and he sees it as a “sign of the city’s continuing growth.” Even though the cost of the project has increased from its initial pitch to council members, Shelton said he is pleased with the cost of the project, considering the original proposal was to issue around $16 million in bonded debt for the project.
Ward 2 Councilman Lynn Bryan has previously complained about the cost of the project by saying it was his original understanding that the council voted to approve a $14 million budget for the project.
“The administration got it down to $15.2 million, so I’m not going to cause a big stink about this,” Bryan told the Daily Journal.
Bryan said it still was his understanding that the council approved the budget to be less than what it is now, but the administration has a different viewpoint. However, Bryan said he’s glad the arena is being renovated.
“I don’t think a lot of stuff we have downtown would be happening if it weren’t for the arena,” he said.
Don Lewis, the city’s chief operating officer, said the council will vote to give the mayor permission to enter into a contract agreement with the companies involved at the next council meeting on Oct. 1 to go ahead and break ground on the project. Then, the mayor will come back to the council at a later meeting, where they will vote to ratify the contract.
Hunt said he anticipates the major construction work to begin by mid to late October.
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