Over a decade in planning, the Mississippi Arts and Entertainment Center has cleared a big fundraising hurdle and ground could break on the project by late summer.

MAEC Executive Director Marty Gamblin said nearly $19 million has been raised privately. With another $5 million appropriated by the state of Mississippi, and $3 million pledged by the city and county, the initial funds needed to begin the $45 million project are nearly there.

“We are well over the 50 percent mark,” Gamblin said. “… We need to raise as much as we can, because if there is a shortfall its going to come in the operating costs. We’re not going to stop raising money for this.”

Bob Luke, chairman of the East Mississippi Business Development Corporation, said the Arts and Entertainment Center is a go. It will be located on Front Street where the old Hotel Meridian once stood.

“We are still on schedule,” Luke said. “We will start to prepare to advertise the project, because it is a public project, for bids and hope to do that by early summer. We could break ground at the end of the summer and have it open by November of 2017.”

Greg Snowden, Mississippi House of Representatives Speaker Pro Tempore, said the state has earmarked $25 million toward the center.

“The state has pledged an additional $20 million,” Snowden said. “We will do it in $5 million increments through a bond issue for each of the next four years on top of the first $5 million we appropriated to start it. We are very supportive of this project.”

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