Special to The Star
The Meridian Star
It’s old made new again, resplendent in its carefully restored 1890s-era décor as 21st century, cutting-edge technology makes every seat and meeting space the best spot in the house. At the corner of 22nd Avenue and 5th Street in Meridian sits an architectural treasure, a crowd-drawing concert house, and an impressive economic engine for the area. Throughout the year and at all hours of any given day, the MSU Riley Center is bringing scores of visitors to the city, whether they are attending a conference, joining friends for a concert, or taking in a play.
“The MSU Riley Center, which opened in 2006, is a stunning catalyst for Meridian’s downtown revitalization, and it serves as a special place where people of our community can come together to have social interaction, enjoy the arts and engage in lifelong learning," said Robert B. Deen, Jr., President/Chairman of Board for The Riley Foundation. "The bold venture began in 2000, when the Riley Foundation made an initial $10 million grant that would go toward restoring two of Meridian’s most important downtown landmarks, the 1889 Grand Opera House and the adjoining Marks Rothenberg department store complex.
"Worthy projects like the MSU Riley Center provide true economic growth for downtown Meridian, for Lauderdale County and for our community as a whole.”
Invariably, these folks bring with them an appetite: for local food, for shopping, or for a comfortable place to stay overnight, a press release states.
"They fill up at local gas stations, rent cars, take in the music scene, all the while, giving a boost to local and state economies with the dollars they spend. In fact, these guests of Meridian—more than 71,000 of them—generated almost four million dollars of economic impact for the region during the 2012 fiscal year alone," according to the press release.
“The MSU Riley Center is one of the major contributors to our tourism demand here in Meridian and Lauderdale County. From performances to conventions, the MSU Riley Center provides a premiere facility to attract visitors to our community,” said Dede Mogollon Executive Director, Meridian/Lauderdale County Tourism.
During this same timeframe, the MSU Riley Center hosted close to 500 meetings, conferences, and social events in its state-of-the-art meeting spaces. Renowned artists, such as Kenny Loggins, Emmy Lou Harris and Boz Scaggs, have played the stage for thousands of fans, while numerous children have enjoyed an exciting slate of educational plays each school year.
"Altogether, these visitors generated, the past fiscal year, $160,000 in revenue for the local government, and $175,000 in state revenue, supporting the equivalent of about 114 full-time jobs," the press release states.
“This past summer, we hosted the single largest conference since opening with more than 500 attendees for three days. They greatly enjoyed the amenities and décor of the center, the restaurants of our city, and service of our hotels, and actually rebooked their event at the MSU Riley Center again before leaving the building,” said executive director Dennis Sankovich. “This event would not have been possible without the help of a very dedicated staff and partners such as Lauderdale County Tourism, local hoteliers, downtown shops, restaurants, and Meridian Main Street.”
The MSU Riley Center is located at 2200 5th Street in Meridian and at www.msurileycenter.com on the Web. For more information about upcoming concerts and theater productions, or to inquire about conference facilities, call 601-696-2200.