TUPELO • The BancorpSouth Arena & Conference Center hosted a ribbon cutting ceremony on Thursday to showcase its newly renovated facility.

Expansion efforts for the project began in late October 2019. The project finished under the $15.2 million budget and four months ahead of the scheduled completion date.

“The unsung heroes are the people of the arena staff,” said Doug Johnson, executive director of the BancorpSouth Arena. “They championed this all the way through. Obviously the pandemic didn’t allow us to have any events, but we were able to bring it in under budget and under our time alignment. So, you couldn’t ask for anything more.”

The improved multi-purpose arena now includes a new connection to the existing conference center and a VIP lounge and bar area called the “BancorpSouth Club,” which can accommodate 200 people.

The VIP lounge will be used for things such as pre-parties before concerts and after parties.

Arena officials hope to have the VIP lounge ready for an April 16 concert featuring Atlanta rock band Blackberry Smoke and the Grammy-nominated North Mississippi Allstars.

The conference center also features LED lights around a tower on the property and renovations to the bathrooms inside the arena.

“We’re excited,” Tupelo Coliseum Commission member Marcus McCoy said. “This is huge for the arena, and we’re excited for people to be able to enjoy this.”

Doug Johnson, executive director of the BancorpSouth Arena and Conference Center, said the renovations will allow the center to host larger events.

Doug Johnson named director of Tupelo's BancorpSouth Arena & Conference Center

“I want to thank BancorpSouth and everyone for their support,” Johnson said. “This support helps us continue to create Tupelo as a destination for conferences, meetings, concerts and family activities.”

With the facility completed ahead of schedule, Nat Grubbs, chairman of the Tupelo Coliseum Commission, said the goal now is to pack the arena.

“We’ve got a facility here that can compete anywhere in the region; anywhere in the state, anywhere in the country,” Grubbs said. “So, it’s back to business now that the pandemic is ending. Our goal is to fill it up and get to it.”

Grubbs said the commission plans to leverage the new building for the maximum economic impact.

Mark Burleson, Northeast Mississippi Division President at BancorpSouth, said the expansion will help meet the needs of people in the Tupelo community. BancorpSouth extended its naming rights to the center through 2035, which helped fund the project.

“For several decades, this facility has made a significant economic impact in our area,” Burleson said. “We are proud to have this partnership and to be able to witness how the arena will continue to make a difference here in our community.”

Tupelo Mayor Jason Shelton called the arena and its expansion a boon to the city.

“When you see the facility and the amenities and what it has to offer, this is the fruits of many long years of work,” Shelton said. “What we have now is a facility that we can compete with anywhere in the country. This is a big thing to celebrate in the city of Tupelo.”

The arena’s executive director called BancorpSouth Arena the “best facility” in the state.

“This is a great day for Tupelo,” Johnson said. “We’re excited and looking forward to hosting our upcoming events here.”

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