OUR OPINION: Location and appearance help market Tupelo arena

By NEMS Daily Journal

A major face-lift and renovation of the BancorpSouth Arena provides visual energy for a celebration in October of its 20th anniversary, a benchmark in the public facility’s history in Tupelo.
From its inception and early days as the Tupelo Coliseum, the arena was designed as a major new entertainment venue, including sports. In large measure, it has not disappointed in providing unprecedented opportunities for Northeast Mississippi residents to see major solo and group artists, in addition to college and professional athletics.
The commission governing the arena awarded a bid of $1,161,870 from Murphy and Sons for the external and interior renovations and some repairs, plus a secondary amount of $91,130 for unanticipated work that’s covered in the originally budgeted $1.8 million.
Work during the renovation and repairs, which now will extend into September, includes repainting the exterior in a color matching and complementary to the BancorpSouth Conference Center adjacent and directly south of the arena.
In marketing major venues, appearance ranks with location as a selling point. During 20 years of steady use by events as diverse as evangelistic meetings and professional bull riding, the need to maintain and enhance the facility becomes evident.
The renovation process has uncovered more water damage than expected, including a few rusted columns and metal studs.
The arena, some younger patrons may not know, once was the Downtown Mall, an enclosed retail space that closed in 1990 with changing retail patterns and preferences.
Advocates of partially razing and reconfiguring the former mall for an arena quickly built support, culminating in construction of the $16 million coliseum.
It opened Oct. 9, 1993, with humorist and actor Bill Cosby headlining the celebrative event for thousands of first-night patrons.
What followed stunned some other Southern arenas because the list includes recording stars of such magnitude they are now known as classics and giants in their creative specialties.
On the list are Elton John, James Taylor, the Eagles, Van Halen, Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, Nickelback, Aerosmith, Kenny Chesney and others.
Amy Grant, Michael W. Smith, Reba McEntire and Alan Jackson all have booked the facility for weeks of rehearsal in preparation for tours.
The arena will celebrate its 20th anniversary this fall, with a special 20th anniversary concert season in development.
The arena has seen more than 200,000 people in attendance every year since its 2007-2008 season.