Recovery, Renovation And Expansion

By R.G. Pickard | September 28, 2010

W.G. Yates Construction and Bracken Contractors construct the 40- to 60-foot-high wave roof. (Photo courtesy of Eley Guild Hardy Assocites)

The Mississippi Coast Coliseum and Convention Center, originally built in 1977, is already the largest beachfront facility of its kind in the South with over 180,000 square feet of floor space, and with the addition of over 200,000 square feet of space via a $68-million expansion, it will ultimately have over 400,000 square feet of convention space. In 2004, the Mississippi Legislature voted on a 3-percent tax on occupied hotel rooms in Harrison County to finance the expansion and renovation of the Mississippi Coast Coliseum and Convention Center in Biloxi, MS, with the ultimate goal of increasing convention space from 248,000 square feet to at least 600,000 square feet by 2010.

Eley Guild Hardy Architects went to work drawing plans for the expansion in early 2005. The first roadblock to bring the project to a screeching halt came in September 2005 when Hurricane Katrina inundated the facility with its 6-foot-deep storm surge. The tremendous damage threatened to put an end to the expansion project, but Mississippi Coast Coliseum's director, Bill Holmes, worked to secure repairs and renovations and push the expansion forward. As a result, the planned expansion and renovation work became a huge recovery project that required more than 20 separate contracts.

The current phase of expansion work is ahead of schedule and may be complete before the July 2009 target date, according to the general contractor, W.G. Yates Construction. Once the expansion of Hall E is complete in October 2009, the Gulf Coast Coliseum and Convention Center will have more than 400,000 square feet of floor space for lease.

Joey Crain, of Eley Guild Hardy Architects, said that "The Exhibit Hall walls are actually precast off-site and craned into place on site; nothing unusual there, however, the one unique aspect of this building would be the 'wave' roof over the east and west concourses. It is a giant ribbon-shaped structure which varies from 40 to 60 feet high."

Concrete work on the site is being done by W.G. Yates Construction. Structural steel work is being subcontracted to Bracken Contractors using steel supplied by Ellis Steel, and glass work is being performed by Glass, Inc. Roofing panels for the ribbon shaped wave roof are being supplied by IMETCO, and the interior will have a flexible floorplan using curtain wall partitions that are being supplied by EFCO. The contract for landscape design has been awarded to the Cantrell Group.

According to Joey Crain, "The real story here is the struggle of Bill Holmes, the Coliseum's executive director, and his staff, and their fight to not only restore this facility in the aftermath of Katrina, but to resume the expansion and renovation so that it returned bigger and better than before. They never gave up; when it was clear that there would be no convention business because the majority of the hotel rooms on the coast were destroyed and the rest were occupied by personnel involved in the recovery efforts, Bill pushed an expedited repair to his facility and contracted with FEMA to house their base of operations. When they moved out, he brought business back in, even during construction, to keep the facility going."