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franklin county times

Legislators cautiously optimistic about proposed arts center

By By Ben Alexander/The Meridian Star
Dec. 28, 2000
Local legislators are cautiously optimistic that an estimated $35 million can be found for the proposed Mississippi Arts and Entertainment Center in Meridian.
Agriculture and Commerce Commissioner Lester Spell and entertainer Paul Ott announced last week they would recommend that the center be located in Meridian. However, no state funding was attached to the recommendation and, if it is to be built, both legislative action and private funding appear to be necessary.
Young was referring to the matter of finding funding. The proposed facility would house a hall of fame, theater, outdoor amphitheater, artists' apartments, conference center and restaurants. The facility is being designed to highlight the state's arts and entertainment standouts.
Officials said they recommended Meridian as the site for the center despite a recommendation from the Mississippi State University-based Stennis Institute that it should be located in Jackson.
The announcement came more than a year after state officials asked Meridian leaders to prepare a presentation in October 1999 showing why the city should be selected. At that time, it was believed the project would be state funded, wherever the location.
However, a recent budget crunch forced state lawmakers to tighten their financial belts and the prospects for state funding look very dim in the near future. Recently state leaders suggested that a combination of private and state money would be needed for the project.
Sen. Videt Carmichael, D-Meridian, suggested other revenue sources in the nation's capital might be tapped, too.
State Rep. Greg Snowden, R-Meridian, said although he is excited about Meridian being nominated as the host city he said it will take "some time" to find the financial resources for funding.
From whatever sources the funding may come, Snowden said the state would play a vital role in the center's future.
Snowden said many leaders played a role in Meridian being named the proposed site for the center including the area's legislative delegation and city leaders.
Ben Alexander is a staff writer for The Meridian Star. E-mail him at balexander@themeridianstar.com.