New and improved

Coliseum, convention center work nearly done

          Customers line up for a liquidation sale at the Coast Coliseum and Convention Center in Biloxi on Friday.

BILOXI

After more than six years of planning and construction, the Mississippi Coast Coliseum and Convention Center will be completed within a few weeks.

“When are you going to build a parking garage?” people ask executive director Bill Holmes.

“It’s going to be open in April,” he replies.

The four-story garage is hidden so when people turn off Beach Boulevard what they see is the wavy roof and glass front of the new convention center, the palm trees and landscaping.

In all, about $115 million was invested to build the parking garage and enlarge and renovate the convention center and the Coliseum. Construction should be done by the time the Harrison County Tourism Commission moves into its offices on the second floor of the center at the end of April.

About the only thing left to do will be to add a coat of blacktop to the parking lot once temperatures warm, Holmes said. Then an open house will be scheduled to show the community what’s been done.

The improvements the Coliseum Commission approved for the complex are everywhere. Outside are wide sidewalks, benches and trash cans made by state prisoners, and colorful lighting that shows off the architecture of the new building. In the lobby are a GPS clock that’s guaranteed to never be more than 3 seconds off in 5 years, Roulin ceiling panels that look like wood and a video board that can display a customer’s graphics in a million colors, Holmes said.

They’ve already had to order more tables and chairs for the Pelican Cafe, named for a pelican chain-saw carving by Marlin Miller, who did most of the Katrina sculptures along the Coast. The Niche has a baby grand piano for receptions and the East Lobby will have a cyber-cafe.

“This type of facility is state-of-art,” Holmes said, with 91 antennas on the roof for WiFi anywhere in the buildings and turbo sound speakers that are among the highest quality on the market.

The improvements extend to the

Coliseum, where more acoustical material was added to reduce echo and a temporary dining unit is set up along with a new 100-seat bar area at the edge of the ice for hockey fans.

The kitchen had to be expanded and renovated to accommodate the larger center. The freezers were pushed to the outside, chiller rooms were added for fruits and salads and two stainless-steel mini-kitchens can be set up anywhere.

Flexibility is key to every space, Holmes said. The new 150,000-square-foot exhibit hall can be divided into two or four rooms and has a 20-by-40-foot door that can accommodate boats, airplanes and other large displays.

“Now, because of the bigger space they were able to bring in Bingo World with the Southern Gaming Summit,” he said.

Holmes said he’s not done yet. Now he’ll focus on getting a hotel — possibly two — built on land adjacent to the convention center, which he said will bring larger events to the Coast. 

By MARY PEREZ – meperez@sunherald.com

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