Meridian Star

Local News

August 20, 2006

Riley Center officials get set to go

The Mississippi State Riley Center for Education and Performing Arts is about 19 days from opening.

Dennis Sankovich, executive director of the center, and Penny Kemp, marketing director, sat down with The Meridian Star Editorial Board last week to discuss the center’s Sept. 8 opening and the process of renovating the opera house.

The Meridian Star: Has the construction process been a smooth one?

Dennis Sankovich: It’s never smooth, it’s like birthing a baby. You always have your bumps in the road but the thing is how you deal with them. Everything has been coming through pretty well. We’re very happy with the center and what it looks like.

It’s a very complicated process when you’re doing three buildings like this of this magnitude, so it’s a challenge. But we’ve met all the challenges and are moving toward the finish line.

The Star: What is the status of making the streets two way around the Riley Center?

Sankovich: From what I’ve heard from the Meridian City Council, they are on track to have the streets changed before the opening. I think they are set to be changed by Sept. 1 or Sept. 5. Will that be enough time to get people acclimated? I can’t worry about that. The Riley Center by itself is going to be hard to be used to, it’s new.

The streets are just one more thing and I think they’ll find, eventually, it’s all going to be good because slowing down traffic that runs through the downtown is going to make it better for business coming through. It’s also going to be better for the retailers that are trying to do business and the pedestrians trying to cross the street.

I don’t know about you, but crossing 22nd Avenue sometimes can be like taking your life into your own hands. I can’t believe how people think that is a thoroughfare. This is a business district. Making it two-way and making it more pedestrian friendly, more parking friendly, those types of things, is a good thing. The downtown is a business district and is developing and things are going to change.

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