Jackson City Council Vote First Step Toward Multipurpose Arena

Wed June 21, 2006 - Southeast Edition

JACKSON, MS (AP) The Jackson City Council has agreed in principle to allow a Hattiesburg developer to pursue financing for a $40 million multipurpose arena.

Greg Disotell wants to tear down Smith-Wills Stadium, a facility which hosted professional baseball teams and several college baseball games among other events, and construct a 9,000 to 12,000-seat arena in its place.

Jackson officials on Tuesday gave Disotell until Oct. 1 to secure a line of credit and provide documents proving he has the money.

“He will have to do that before we allow him to touch one brick (of Smith-Wills),” said Councilman Ben Allen, who helped spearhead the project.

Disotell has said he will personally pay about 20 percent, or about $8 million, of the construction cost. The agreement also requires Disotell to pay $500,000 to sever existing leases at Smith-Wills and $250,000 to relocate the adjacent high school stadium to a city-owned site across Lakeland Drive.

If Disotell has met his obligations outlined in the agreement, the city council would vote to borrow up to $7 million for the demolition of Smith-Wills and pay some arena construction costs.

The bonds will be repaid from property taxes and half of sales taxes generated by arena events.

Dale Danks, a Jackson attorney and former mayor who is working for the city on the project, said the agreement ensures that if anything goes awry, the developer and his lenders will be responsible for repaying the city’s bonds.

Construction of the arena, access roads and a parking garage is scheduled for completion in March 2008.

Disotell said he expects the arena will host 120 events each year, with eight being minor league football games.

“The building will hold about 9,000 for sporting events and about 12,000 for concerts,” he said.