Northeast Mississippi Community College is continuing to grow and expand for the future with ongoing projects including sidewalk and crosswalk improvements, a major renovation of a landmark auditorium and long-term plans for a new tennis complex and a state of the art workforce training facility.
“It’s all about serving our students and community,” said NEMCC President Dr. Ricky Ford.
Motorists traveling through the college’s Booneville campus are sure to notice bright orange signs marking the start of construction on phase 2 of sidewalk and crosswalk improvements that will make navigating the campus safer for both drivers and pedestrians.
The Mississippi Department of Transportation grant-funded project continues improvements previously made along Cunningham Boulevard and around Tiger Stadium. Ford explained this phase of the work will add new sidewalks and crosswalks from the boulevard going north along Second Street and then west along Veterans Drive before turning south to follow along and meet up with existing sidewalks behind Ramsey Hall. The work includes new street lights, ADA-compliant ramps and crosswalks. Several of the crosswalks will include embedded lighting which will activate when pedestrians cross making them even more visible to motorists.
Ford said he’s especially excited about the improvements coming to the intersection of College Street and Veterans Drive near the Baptist Student Union. A parking lot at the northeast corner of the intersection creates a large amount of student pedestrian traffic at that corner and the president said the improvements will make the key intersection much safer for students and drivers.
A third and final phase of the sidewalk and crosswalk work has already been approved and will complete the loop around the south side of the campus, completely encircling the campus with safe, well-lit and accessible pathways.
The next major project on the drawing board is a complete interior renovation to the historic Seth Pounds Auditorium. The auditorium, which is listed on the Mississippi Register of Historic Places, has played host to entertainers including Elvis Presley as well as countless school and community events. One of the original buildings constructed when the college was opened in 1948, Ford said the auditorium is a campus treasure but over the years had become in need of significant updates to the electrical system and other systems to make it safe and capable of hosting modern performances.
While the exterior will remain untouched to preserve the historic look of the auditorium, the interior will receive an extensive renovation including new seating, staging, electrical, lighting and sound equipment. Ford said he wants the building to continue to serve as a centerpiece for campus and community activities for generations to come.
The school is also undertaking a major capital campaign seeking private donations in support of the construction of a new tennis complex to be located behind Tiger Stadium near the old National Guard Armory. The eight-court complex will feature new courts along with dressing rooms and other facilities and give a quality place for both the recently revived NEMCC tennis team.
Ford said they’re extremely excited about the school’s most recent real estate acquisition. The college has signed a contract for the purchase of the former Corinthian Furniture building on East Chambers Drive in Booneville. The approximately 358,000-square-foot building is slated for renovation into a state-of-the-art workforce and career training facility.
The president said the move will bring all of the school’s career, workforce and industrial training and adult education programs under one roof for the first time. While the project is in its earliest stages, he said he expects the facility to allow them to as much as double the number of graduates from these programs.
He said the programs are vital to the future of the college and economic development in the region by providing training to prepare students for high-paying jobs in high-tech manufacturing and other industries.
“It’s about offering opportunities to improve the quality of life,” he said.
The renovation will also include the creation of a new conference center located along with the school’s culinary arts program so those students can get hands-on experience as the school hosts events at the site.