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Local banks commit to Riley Center

By By Steve Gillespie/The Meridian Star
Dec. 21, 2001
Six local banks have committed nearly $100,000 to the Riley Education and Performing Arts Center, planned for the Grand Opera House and Marks-Rothenberg building.
Chuck Nicholson, president of Community Bank, said he believes "it's very important for us to give back to the community to improve the quality of life and support economic development."
Community Bank has committed $20,000 over a three-year period for an endowment set up to fund the Riley Center's operations.
AmSouth Bank, BankPlus and Trustmark National Bank promised the same support. Union Planters Bank committed $10,000 and Great Southern National Bank pledged $7,500 to the fund.
The Riley Center will be developed through the renovation of the Grand Opera House and Marks-Rothenberg building both owned by Mississippi State University.
Bankers said that MSU approached them last summer about the project. MSU President Malcolm Portera spearheaded a $19 million public-private funding package to construct The Riley Center.
Allan Stewart, president of BankPlus in Meridian, said his bank made its formal commitment this fall. He said that "we verbally agreed to do it almost immediately."
AmSouth president Tal Braddock said that the Riley Center and other downtown revitalization projects are the most exciting things he's seen during his 10 years in Meridian.
On Tuesday, the Phil Hardin Foundation announced a $2.5 million grant will fund an endowment for the operation of the Riley Center. That grant and the $100,000 from the banks will help fulfill the $5 million local commitment for the project.
So far, about $4.2 million in local funds have been raised.
Bev. R. Norment, who is coordinating the project as special assistant to the MSU president, said work is continuing to reach the $5 million goal for the endowment and perhaps go beyond that amount.
Steve Gillespie is a staff writer for The Meridian Star. Call him at 693-1551, ext. 3233, or e-mail him at