Desoto County News

Landers Center expansion funding approved

Now that they have figured out how it will be paid for, officials said Monday it could be within the next couple of months that the expansion of the Landers Center can actually begin.  

The DeSoto County Board of Supervisors Monday approved a new funding plan for what has become an expansion project of more than $84.1 million. The new plan includes the expansion of the convention hall and the move of the DeSoto Family Theatre to another part of the complex. What it does not include is a parking garage, which was removed from the latest version of the plan to allow for the new funding plan to work.  

While the total cost of the project is above the original price tag, which was originally estimated at about $60 million, the changes in the design were enough that the Board of Supervisors agreed it could add an additional $15 million above the $38.5 million bond issue that was already set forth. How much of that comes in a loan to the DeSoto County Convention and Visitors Bureau, how much comes in a cash infusion, or in a second bond, will be determined at the proper time by the county’s financial advisors.  Also, $3.5 million of that cost will be directed to the DeSoto Family Theatre and its move to its new location. 

The vote to approve the county’s commitment to the project was not a unanimous one, however, as Supervisor Robert Foster voted “no.”

“I just want to say because I’m gonna vote no on the motion,” Foster said ahead of the vote. “I’m not against the project, but I have some other concerns.” Foster did not detail what his concerns were as the 4-1 vote was taken.  

An image with the new design of the Landers Center expansion.
The green area to the right is the relocated DeSoto Family Theatre.

Separate from Monday’s vote, but brought forward as part of the improvements aimed at making the area a major entertainment destination for conventions, theater and sports, is the construction of a seven-story Embassy Suites Hotel and free-standing restaurant. 

The hotel is expected to provide 200 rooms and a resort-style pool with a lazy river feature. It’s expected the development of the hotel will coincide with the expansion work on the Landers Center.  

Supervisor Ray Denison, in introducing the discussion on the funding agreement, said the expansion will provide a large economic boost to the area.

“Direct spending $27 million yearly, $38 million annual impacts, and 340 local jobs created,” Denison said. “We’ve been very serious about what our intent was and very serious about the outcome.”  

An earlier design had lowered the square footage of the convention hall to less than 60,000 square feet. The latest design approved by the board increases the size to 76,000 square feet, which Supervisor Mark Gardner said was vital to his support.  

“The most important thing is having a convention hall space big enough that we can put on some big trade shows and book some big conventions,” Gardner said.  

The new location for the DeSoto Family Theatre (DFT) is in the area of the current ballroom, but architect Doug Thornton said the move will allow for more square footage. DFT representatives later said they may lose some seats with the move but are happy that the new theater will offer more functionality.

“It looks like it’s going to be an exciting day for DeSoto County,”  Mat Lipscomb of DFT said. “I’ve been very vocal about that you’re (supervisors) are going to take care of us the way that you said. We’re happy with it and appreciate everybody’s work.”  

Expect a groundbreaking for the expansion project to begin sometime this summer.  

Supervisors and those involved in the Landers Center expansion pose for a photo after a vote to approve a new funding plan on Monday, March 18.