Arts and Entertainment board requests money from Lauderdale County

By Staff
START-UP FUNDS NEEDED Paul Ott, president of the board of directors of the Mississippi Arts and Entertainment Center, talks to Lauderdale County supervisors Thursday during a work session. Ott asked supervisors for $150,000 for the "start-up" phase of the center. Duffee Williams, left, board member of the arts and entertainment center, and Wanda Grabert, right, executive director of the Lauderdale County Tourism Bureau, also were part of the presentation. Photo by Steve Gillespie/The Meridian Star
By Steve Gillespie / staff writer
Nov. 14, 2003
Calling it a critical time for the proposed Mississippi Arts and Entertainment Center, Paul Ott asked Lauderdale County supervisors Thursday to put up money for the project's initial phase.
Ott, of Summit, is president of the center's board of directors. He asked the county to donate $150,000 before the end of the year. The money will be used for preliminary site design, permitting, and engineering work for the center that will be built at Bonita Lakes. The total estimated cost to build the center is $54.5 million.
A similar request is expected to be made to the city of Meridian at its next city council meeting, scheduled for Tuesday, according to Duffee Williams, of Meridian, another member of the center's board of directors.
The start-up phase
Williams told supervisors about $750,000 had been budgeted for the "start-up" phase of the project.
Four of the five supervisors said they are in favor of the requested funding, which is expected to be voted on at the board's next regularly scheduled meeting on Monday. District 5 Supervisor Ray Boswell made a stipulation to his support.
He said using sales tax dollars will better establish the project as a regional effort. Other supervisors said their support does not hinge on the city's action.
The ultimate goal
Since Meridian was designated as the location for the center by the Legislature nearly two years ago, a dedication ceremony was held at the 175-acre site at Bonita Lakes in May. Several well-known Mississippi-born entertainers, led by Meridian native Sela Ward, agreed to serve on an honorary committee for the center, including: Jimmy Buffett, Morgan Freeman, John Grisham, Faith Hill, B.B. King, Charley Pride and Britney Spears. The center also has acquired tax-exempt status.
Ground-breaking is expected to begin in 2004 or 2005 with an estimated six-year completion time for all of the plans that include performance spaces, studios and a Hall of Fame.
Based on preliminary budgeting listed in a letter to supervisors from Frank Farley, treasurer of the center's board of directors, the expected funding sources for completion of the center include a total of $13.3 million from the city of Meridian and Lauderdale County; $17 million in federal funding; $12.7 million from the state; and $11.4 million in private donations.
Williams also told the board that the center is advertising for an executive director.