MEMORIAL STADIUM PLANS ON HOLD FOR UMMCBy ANTHONY WARREN,
At least for the foreseeable future, Mississippi Veterans Memorial Stadium will be home to the Jackson State University Tigers.
Eventually, the University of Mississippi Medical Center (UMMC) hopes to take in the historic stadium to the west of its downtown Jackson campus.
In 2011, JSU even agreed to turn over the facility to the university hospital once a new stadium was constructed for its campus.
However, nearly eight years later, no new stadium for the Tigers is in sight, and UMMC’s plans for the near future include renovations and new construction mainly on its main campus.
“It’s not something that’s on our radar,” UMMC spokesman Marc Rolph said, referring to any expansion involving the stadium. “It’s serving a valuable purpose right now.”
The hospital’s master plan was updated in 2017. The document includes recommended campus improvements and expansions for the near future.
“The current plan covers the next five to 10 years. It will be three to five years before a new one is considered,” Rolph said.
To accommodate for a growing number of students, the plan recommends constructing a new 90,000 to 110,000-square-foot School of Nursing, a 75,000-square-foot interdisciplinary building and a new ambulatory services building, as well as expanding the School of Pharmacy, School of Dentistry and student union facility.
The plan also advocates for converting the existing nursing school facility into a building for clinical trials and adding additional space for growing programs and class laboratory needs.
The majority of those improvements would be made on the main campus, while the plan proposes two sites for the ambulatory services facility, one on the main campus behind the pediatric parking garage, and one on UMMC land on the opposite side of North State Street.
UMMC is bordered by Lakeland Drive to the north, Woodrow Wilson Avenue to the south, North State to the west and St. Dominic’s Hospital and the G.V. (Sonny) Montgomery VA Medical Center to the east.
The university also owns property on the north side of Lakeland, but leases it to the owners of the Meridian, a mixed-use development.
On the opposite side of North State, UMMC used grant money to transform the old Schimmel’s restaurant into Hope Lodge, a facility that will provide temporary lodging to cancer patients and caregivers. The lodge is expected to open in 2019, according to the American Cancer Society’s website.
Other major projects have been completed or are under way on the main campus. In 2017, UMMC dedicated its new $76 million School of Medicine; and currently, construction is ongoing on an expansion of the Blair E. Batson Children’s Hospital, also on the main campus.
For the school of medicine, existing utilities had to be located. The new children’s hospital was built on what was previously a campus green space.
Meanwhile, plans to build a stadium at JSU appear to have stalled. The website for the domed stadium still lists Carolyn Myers as school president. However, Meyers announced her resignation in October 2016.
The plans were grandiose, calling for the creation of a covered stadium that would seat up to 50,000 people for football games, 17,000 for basketball games and 21,000 for concerts.
In 2014, JSU officials estimated that the stadium would cost around $200 million to build. Based on inflation, the building today would cost around $213 million.
However, no funds have been set aside for the project. Gov. Phil Bryant, in his annual budget recommendations, has not set aside funding for the project. The legislature has also not provided funding.
According to the stadium’s website, Memorial was constructed in 1950. Following expansions in 1980, the stadium now seats 44,215 people.
Officials with JSU couldn’t be reached for comment.