Butler Snow served as Bond Counsel and Disclosure Counsel in connection with the issuance of $20,000,000 Mississippi Development Bank Special Obligation Bonds, Series 2017 (Meridian, Mississippi Arts & Entertainment Center General Obligation Bond Project) on behalf of the City of Meridian, Mississippi (the “City”). The bond proceeds will fund a portion of the new $50,000,000 Mississippi Arts & Entertainment Experience museum (the “MAX”). This project is among Butler Snow’s growing list of projects around the country utilizing public-private partnerships. The MAX will be owned by the State of Mississippi (the “State”) and operated by a private non-profit corporation organized as a 501(c)(3) to plan, build, operate and maintain the MAX and to seek and obtain private donations and grants. The State also authorized $29,000,000 to support the MAX and its proceeds will be used to construct, furnish and equip the MAX as well.
The MAX will see 150,000 visitors a year and will be located in the heart of downtown Meridian at the intersection of 22nd Avenue and 2nd Street near the City’s historic Union Station train depot. The MAX will be an educational, entertainment and interactive state-of-the-art facility which will include exhibits organized around five themes – the land, the home, the community, the church and the people. The MAX will have a two story State-sanctioned Hall of Fame rotunda. In this 360-degree exhibit, world-famous musicians, actors, media personalities, visual artists, authors and entertainment legends with Mississippi roots will come to life through interactive touch screens. The MAX will also have a Hollywood-style Walk of Fame, auditorium, outdoor performance plaza, and broadcast/recording facility. The MAX will be approximately 60,000 square feet. Construction of the MAX began in 2016 and is expected to be complete in early 2018. The MAX will be in walking distance to Meridian’s historic 16-story Threefoot Building which is being proposed as a 120 room Courtyard by Marriott Hotel.
The financing structure involved a cooperation agreement between the City, non-profit corporation and the State, pursuant to which the City and non-profit corporation agreed to create a reserve and contingency fund along with a fund to operate the MAX, a fund to provide for capital improvements and other expenditures using a special tax, authorized by a voter referendum on August 16, 2016 in the City, equal to two percent (2%) of the gross proceeds of the sales from prepared food and beverages from every person, firm, corporation or other entity operating a restaurant in the City. The non-profit corporation and the State also entered into a Construction, Operation and Administration Agreement allowing the non-profit corporation to construct, operate and administer the MAX.