A years-old conversation about building a new football stadium at Jackson State University was surprisingly rekindled this week by Mississippi Gov. Phil Bryant.
While speaking to the press after a ceremony celebrating construction of a new building at University of Mississippi Medical Center, Bryant said he believes it is time to tear down Mississippi Veterans Memorial Stadium to clear space for expansion of the health care corridor in Jackson.
“We need to go over to Jackson State, on their campus, and build them a stadium that they can enjoy on that great urban campus of theirs,” Bryant told reporters. “That is valuable land and we need it.”
Jackson State plays home games in the 60,000-seat Veterans Memorial Stadium, which sits just west of UMMC. The football venue was built in 1950.
Even though JSU administrators didn’t expect Bryant’s statement, they have long desired a new stadium. Construction of a facility is part of a master growth plan to extend the campus east to downtown Jackson. Multiple feasibility studies for a new stadium have been conducted by the university in recent years, and specific project plans have been drawn and published. University officials have discussed both domed and open-air stadium options.
In 2011, the state legislature granted control of Memorial Stadium to Jackson State under the condition that the university would transfer the land to UMMC when the university builds a new stadium.
As recently as 2014, bills were filed in the Mississippi Senate that would allow an amusement tax exemption in Jackson for any new stadium built. Those bills never made it out of committee.
After Bryant spoke, the university issued this statement: “It has always been a desire of Jackson State University to have a football stadium on its main campus, and we appreciate the support we’ve been given to try to make this a reality.”
The stadium land has been considered valuable by UMMC officials for a long time. At the same event as the governor on Monday, UMMC Vice Chancellor LouAnn Woodward told reporters that UMMC is at a disadvantage because of its lack of room to expand.
“I think it’s time to take it down and use that area for the medical city,” Bryant said Monday. “Not only UMMC, but allow Baptist, St. Dominic’s and other health care industries to come into that area to extend that health care corridor.”