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Making new memories: Developer hopes to reinvigorate Big Town site
Several years ago, Kent Jones and his business partners presented the Mesquite City Council with plans to acquire and develop the old Big Town Mall site. As plans were being finalized, the economy went into a recession and funding became hard to obtain. The plans were shelved until funding could be obtained.
"We went to the city five or six years ago and got a [planned development] to renovate the exhibition hall and the rest of the 86 acres," Jones said.
The initial plans called for a sports and entertainment complex that included an amphitheater and restaurants. There were two different plans submitted to the city council in 2008; one included a minor league baseball stadium and one without. Both plans were approved by the council.
Jones leased the exhibit hall from property owner SLJ Co. in August.
"When the Big Town property was bought, the city discontinued the [certificate of occupancy], so we have to bring the building up to city code to get it back," Jones said.
Workers have been hard at work on renovations to the building, which will reopen as the Big Town Event Center. The new look of the building will feature improved lighting, new restrooms and a new coat of paint inside. The exterior of the building will undergo some aesthetic changes to give the building a fresher look.
"We are in the middle of renovating the exhibit hall. We gutted the inside. It was very dated and no one had touched it in a long time," Jones said. "We are in the process of adding some aesthetic features and upgrading the lighting and sound system. The outside will be cleaned up with some aesthetic changes to the building."
Jones said there are already events booked at the facility beginning in April.
"The purpose of the events center is to host consumer shows on a weekly basis," Jones said.
He added that he is in negotiations with some major investors about getting the second phase of the project going. The second phase will begin the installation of the sports component of the development.
"We are in talks with some high-profile partners that could bring exciting sports programming to the site," Jones said. "For that to happen we would have to build out the facilities. Once we lock in the programming, then we can start to build out the individual fields."
When Big Town Mall opened in 1959, it was the first air-conditioned mall in the southwest and became a major shopping destination. The mall was demolished in 2006 after it sat vacant for several years. Jones hopes by adding sports and entertainment options, the site will become a destination again.
"The individuals we are involved with are going to make Mesquite a destination for sports. The athletes and families will plan trips to Mesquite, which will provide economic benefits to the city," Jones said. "There are lots of stories about Big Town and how important it was to the city. I believe there are thousands of people that have memories of it, and this will hopefully rekindle some of those once it's revitalized."