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Taxpayers could pay up to $430 million to help build tourist attractions statewide

INCENTIVE: The Outlets of Mississippi is one of the participating projects in the state's tourism incentive program. Photo by Steve Wilson

Mississippi taxpayers are helping pay for the construction of shopping malls, hotels, golf courses and other tourist attractions. If all projects open or still in progress reach fruition, the bill could add up to more than $430 million.

As of October 3, more than $50 million had been paid out by the Mississippi Tourism Rebate. The program allows a proportion of the sales tax revenue generated by a project to be paid to developers for construction costs for 15 years, subject to the approval of the Mississippi Development Authority.

The developer has to build a tourist attraction with a value of at least $10 million that can be a golf course, a water park, a golf course or a museum. Hotels with a minimum private investment of $40 million, hotels with convention centers or even motor speedways are other projects eligible under the program.

Some of the hotels financed by the program include the King Edward Hotel in Jackson ($2,848,167 received out of a possible $19,497,379 in rebates) and a new convention center and hotel under construction at the Refuge Golf Course in Flowood, which is eligible for $13,107,156.

A hotel in Meridian and two more in Cleveland have also been certified by the MDA to receive the rebates.

The Outlets of Mississippi and the Outlets of the Mid South have been receiving money under the program. Spectrum Bloomfield LLC has received $15,360,688 of a possible $24,039,421 for the Outlets of Mississippi.

Bloomfield Development received $18,906,655 for the building of Trustmark Park, home of the Atlanta Braves' Double-A affiliate the Mississippi Braves and a neighboring Bass Pro Shop.

The DeSoto MidSouth Tourism Project LLC, which built the Outlets of the Mid South in Southaven, has earned $6,972,588 of a possible $33,990,000.

Speaking of baseball, the city of Biloxi and Biloxi Baseball LLC have received $130,909 of a possible $6,000,000 for construction of MGM Park, which is home to the Double-A Biloxi Shuckers, an affiliate of the Milwaukee Brewers.

The Costco at the Renaissance in Ridgeland is under construction and is eligible for a $29,594,938 rebate.

A new retail development north of Interstate 10 near Biloxi is now back under way and is supposed to be open by 2020. It could be eligible for a rebate of $96,261,000.

Developers of the old Veteran's Administration property near the beach in Gulfport could receive $51,851,178 under the program to build Centennial Plaza, which would include a lazy river, a fountain and a boutique hotel.

Not all the projects are likely to break ground, as Freedom Real Estate LLC has yet to turn a shovel on property it owns off Lakeland Drive in Flowood. The rebate for the project could add up to $48,750,000.

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