JACKSON, MS (WLBT) - The legislature is back in session and if you’re headed towards the Capitol, you will pass the Mississippi Coliseum and Fairgrounds.
I remember making many trips up I-55 to Jackson and the excitement of seeing the circus tent looking coliseum appear on the horizon. I saw my first rock concert there when KISS came to town. That was many, many years ago.
However, when I attended an event there a couple of months ago it was a step back in time. Not much has changed since we rocked out to the KISS classics, especially the concessions area. Attend an event an any arena or stadium that has been built in the last 20 years and you’ll have choices from sushi to craft beer to custom burgers. Not here. The outside may have been renovated years ago, and it looks better than the orange and yellow days, but the inside needs a major makeover. And when the new Trade Mart goes online in early 2020, now connected to the coliseum, the step back in time will be even more exaggerated.
The best thing going for the operation is Steve Hutton, Executive Director of the Fairgrounds. He and his team have been in place less than a year, but many improvements are complete, and he has plans for other upgrades.
Most have been accomplished with minimal expense through smart management and maintenance.
Since the Fairgrounds is, for the most part, self-sustaining, meaning it can only spend what it earns after expenses, it doesn’t generate enough funds to cover major remodel costs. However, if the facility doesn’t see improvements, the new Brandon Amphitheater, a new Rankin County conference center, and other contemporary venues will siphon off events that could be held at the coliseum. Fewer quality events means less money for maintenance and upgrades.
The facility needs a boost from the state legislature to provide funds for renovations to bring the coliseum into the 21st Century.