BancorpSouth Arena and Conference Center in Tupelo, Miss., is getting $15.2 million in improvements. (Courtesy BancorpSouth Arena)

Renovation expected to increase bookings at convention center

The Tupelo, Miss., city council has unanimously approved a $15.2 million upgrade to the BancorpSouth Arena and Conference Center that will connect the 10,000-seat arena and the adjacent convention center.

“This is something we’ve been working on since 2014 and it’s taken five years to see it come to fruition,” said Todd Hunt, executive director of the venue. “The arena was built in 1993. In 2006, the city built a convention center that was operated by Hilton Garden. The city took over the conference center in 2013 and has managed both properties since then. The renovation and expansion will physically connect the two facilities.”

The arena has hosted Elton John, Tim McGraw & Faith Hill, James Taylor and many others. The conference center has seen many state conventions, including the Mississippi Rural Water Convention and the Government Procurement and Purchasing Agents meeting.

Approximately $14.3 million will go toward constructing the new conference center.

“We’re going to add 12,000 square feet of meeting space and we’re going to completely renovate the current space,” said Hunt. “We’re also adding a 200-capacity club space that can be utilized for both entertainment events and meetings, banquets and receptions.”

Around $100,000 will go to adding LED lights around a tower on the property. Another $223,000 will go toward renovating the bathrooms inside of the main arena. The rest of the funds are earmarked for building a connector between the arena and the convention center.

A rendering shows how the BancorpSouth Arena and Conference Center will be connected. (Courtesy BancorpSouth Arena)

“It’s a great investment for the city and will improve the quality of life for our citizens,” Hunt said.

The construction contract has been awarded to Innovative Construction Management, based in Oxford, Miss.

Concessions are handled in-house with assistance from Romie’s Grocery, a local food and beverage company.

The convention center has hosted up to 800 people and Hunt believes the improvements will allow the venue to host an even larger number of guests.

“We’re hoping to grow that space with the renovations,” Hunt said. “The makeover should help quite a bit. What we’re trying to do with the expansion is enhance the amenities that we’re able to offer for our entertainment guests and then also give us a larger space so we can attract more conferences down the road.”

Hunt was pleased to report that the venues break even and that together they currently bring about $14 million to the region. “We’re hoping to move the needle to $18 million post-renovations,” he said.

Additionally, the city voted to renew its naming rights agreement with BancorpSouth for an additional 12 years. The agreement was set to expire in 2023, but the city voted to extend the agreement until 2035.

BancorpSouth will pay a one-time fee of $500,000 to the arena to cover some of the renovation costs and will pay $300,000 per year for the naming rights to the venue for the first 10 years of the new agreement, and $350,000 per year for the last two years of the contract.

Dan Rollins, the CEO and chairman of BancorpSouth, said in a statement that the company was committed to supporting the Tupelo area and was excited about the extended naming rights deal.

“The BancorpSouth Arena and Conference Center is an important cultural and economic engine for our community and a great source of pride for our team at BancorpSouth,” he said.

Construction is set to begin later this month and should take 18 months to complete.