Upgrades to Eagle Ridge, Muse Center to highlight community involvement

by | Nov 5, 2021 | Foundation

Renovations to Hinds’ two major auxiliary facilities, one in Hinds County and the other in Rankin County, will refresh the college’s commitment to serving local communities and spurring economic growth.

Both Eagle Ridge Conference Center in Raymond and the Clyde Muse Center in Pearl will receive updates over the coming weeks that will enhance their ability to serve the public. Both facilities, which offer different amenities, are important to the vitality of the college and the communities served.

“Eagle Ridge Conference Center and the Muse Center at Hinds Community College are impactful, state-of-the-art facilities which support the college vision of creating a competitive economy and a compelling culture for Mississippi,” Hinds President Dr. Stephen Vacik said.

“Truly, they are multi-purposed, supporting our communities and regional economic development. Whether it is an art show or a trade show, a national conference or a high school commencement, both ERCC and the Muse Center are stimulating the economy, through the spending locally of dollars on food, gas, lodging and other retail opportunities, and stimulating the culture, by hosting varied events and activities which engage our constituents, regardless of age or interest,” Dr. Vacik said.

Eagle Ridge Conference Center is rolling out a spiffy new welcome mat of sorts for guests to its 46 refurbished hotel rooms. Each room was gutted and each is being remodeled and outfitted with new amenities, including furniture, which marked the first makeover of the guest space since the facility opened in 1996. Air conditioning systems throughout the building were replaced as part of the total $3 million renovation.

Eagle Ridge Conference Center.

Starting in 2022, guests staying at Eagle Ridge will enjoy new showers, televisions, door locks/room card scanners and improved views of the golf course.

Beer and wine will be sold at Eagle Ridge starting this fall following the state granting resort status to the property. “We’re already starting to see some opportunities come to fruition to become more of a wedding and rehearsal dinner venue,” said Marvin Moak (1993, 2009), vice president of Facility Management & Auxiliary Services.

Some of the seating inside the 206-seat auditorium will be refurbished later this year, with the help of the Fab Lab at the Vicksburg-Warren Campus, facility director Dr. Brock Haas said.

“The company that makes the writing platforms for each seat went out of business years ago,” Haas said. “There are about a dozen each of tablets and arm rests that need to be repaired or replaced. The lab will help create new seating and save us some money.”

One tenant already in-house at Eagle Ridge is eager to see the makeover take place.

“The renovation at Eagle Ridge provides more opportunities for Mississippi
State University Extension Service to offer multi-day trainings, events and activities that will allow the participants to stay overnight at the facility,” said Theresa Hand (1991) the service’s interim regional extension coordinator for southwest Mississippi and coordinator of the Hinds County office, which moved into Eagle Ridge in 2014.

Eagle Ridge already has the personal touch going for it, according to some of its regular event organizers.
“I have found Eagle Ridge to be one of the easiest and lowest cost locations to host a meeting,” said Stephen Dicke, of the Mississippi Chapter of the Association of Consulting Foresters. The group held its annual meeting there in August, as 90 members used the auditorium and already-renovated dining area, where plans are in the works to turn the space into a full-service restaurant.

“The AV equipment is first class and a tech guy is there to make sure things are working well,” Dicke said. “I found the variable costs per person, including breaks and meals, were about 25 percent higher at a competitor’s location. And superior food at a lower cost is hard to beat.”

A renovation is also underway for the Challenge Course behind Eagle Ridge. The course is a low element ropes/obstacle course designed to encourage team building and cooperation for a diverse group of clients. “Case Dodson, who is our new golf course superintendent, has helped us clean up the course,” Haas said. “We also used hay from the ag facility to create paths for the course.”

Clyde Muse Center.

The Muse Center on the Rankin Campus will undergo a facelift of its own, starting in 2022. HVAC and lighting systems inside and signage outside the 75,000-square-foot multipurpose facility will be replaced, as will the flooring, director Tammy Smith said. The Muse Center has also received resort status and can serve alcohol.

“The aesthetic beauty of the Muse Center speaks for itself,” Smith said. “Renovations coming for 2022 and 2023 will enhance that beauty with the kinds of things that are incentives for new events to come in and regular events to return.”

One incentive in the works is a new sound system, she said. “We have state-of-the-art sound equipment, but acoustically speaking, we have several areas that need improvement so we can be competitive with other venues that host concerts.”

Upgrades to the facility will be an economic development tool by itself, according to those in the business of job creation in the region.

“Many people think of the Muse Center as an event center for large meetings and career fairs,” said Dr. Robin Parker, Workforce coordinator for the Central Mississippi Planning and Development District, also located in Pearl. “But, it also allows our workforce area to offer multiple training programs, such as OSHA programs, first-aid and CPR workshops and other industry-specific trainings.

“These vital training programs allow participants an opportunity to grow their skillset and it allows employers in the area to have a larger pool of qualified, skilled individuals to hire.”

The importance of the facility’s impact isn’t lost on public officials in Pearl and Rankin County.

“The Muse Center has been such a great venue for the City of Pearl over the years,” Pearl Mayor Jake Windham said. “For those that have not been inside the building, I would suggest taking a tour to see just how great of a facility it truly is. We currently have resort status throughout our city, which includes the Muse Center. This will allow for diverse events of all kinds and increase the quality of life for our community.”

Enhanced signage along Interstate 20 featuring real-time announcements about events will be part of the plan, Smith said, as will a new floor for the auditorium that hosts graduations, seminars, banquets, cheer and dance competitions and more. It would be the first new surface since the facility was completed in 2011.

“The appearance of the floor isn’t bad just to look at, but a lot of wear and tear has taken place over the years,” she said. “An event floor with markings to help line and set up for events, plus adequate audio-visual and media feeds built in, will help guarantee more bookings.”

Pumps that regulate water for the center’s beautiful fountain visible from Interstate 20 will also be replaced as part of the project, Moak said.

Directors of both facilities are Hinds veterans but new in their roles and are eager to help the college continue its unique position in the community, that of having two ideal centers for events.

“Directing this facility is my newfound passion, professionally speaking,” Smith said. “This is but another rewarding chapter in my time working here, first at the bookstore in Raymond and now here at a premier facility in the region.”

Tammy Smith, Clyde Muse Center facility director.

Haas, previously the dean for secondary education at the Vicksburg-Warren Campus, sees opportunities in the revamped conference center for students who want to work in hospitality and related industries after graduation.

“We’re at an extreme advantage over the rest of the community colleges in Mississippi in that we have two such centers with each a different feel, aesthetic and capacity to serve the community,” Haas said. “Hopefully, our students who may be interested in this industry will be provided internships and job-shadowing down the road.”

Brock Haas, Eagle Ridge Conference Center facility director.