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City of West Memphis breaks ground on construction of new, larger animal shelter funded by Southland Casino Hotel

WEST MEMPHIS, Ark. (Jan. 23, 2024) – Southland Casino Hotel in West Memphis, Ark., in collaboration with parent company Delaware North, today announced a $1.7 million gift to the City of West Memphis to fund a new and much larger animal shelter at the site of the former Mid-South Greyhound Adoption Center. The gift is in collaboration with the Arkansas Greyhound Kennel Association.

Southland and West Memphis officials participated in a ceremonial groundbreaking for the new shelter, which is being named in honor of Ness Sechrest, chairman emeritus of the Southland board of directors, and his wife, Carolyn.

“Today, it brings us immense pride to announce a $1.7 million gift to the City of West Memphis, earmarked for the establishment of a new and significantly larger animal shelter,” said Osi Imomoh, president and general manager of Southland Casino Hotel. “In tribute to their unwavering commitment to animal well-being and this community, the shelter will bear the name ‘The Carolyn and Ness Sechrest Animal Shelter and Adoption Center.’”

Imomoh said that Ness Sechrest called attention to the challenges faced by the facility in terms of location and maintenance and the imperative to expand for the betterment of animal welfare. With the conclusion of racing at Southland, the casino was left with an empty greyhound adoption facility after successfully adopting out all remaining greyhounds.

“The Jacobs family and the Southland Board unanimously agreed that this facility would serve as an ideal location for a new and improved animal shelter,” Imomoh said. “Then the effort involved key partners such as the city, led by Mayor Marco McClendon, and our valued partners at the Greyhound Kennel Owners Association, who graciously donated $40,000 to support the project.”

West Memphis Mayor Marco McClendon said: “Thanks to the incredible generosity of Southland Casino Hotel and the Jacobs family, this contribution not only demonstrates the strong commitment that Southland Casino has for our community but also reflects our shared vision for animals in need. The new Carolyn & Ness Sechrest Animal Shelter and Adoption Center will be a beacon of hope for and a testament to their love and compassion for the animals and people of our city.”

In addition, in partnership with Arkansas State University Mid-South, Southland announced it is establishing new scholarships with a $537,500 gift. Southland is endowing four scholarships ($500,000 total) in honor of esteemed local leaders Mary Toney, the late Cortez Kennedy, the late Frank Martin and Hershel Owens, all of whom have made significant impacts in Crittenden County and at Southland.

Southland is also contributing $37,500 to introduce and help fund the new Crittenden County Promise Scholarships. For those county residents who meet the eligibility criteria, these last-dollar scholarships will cover remaining tuition costs after other aid.

“The Jacobs family, Delaware North and Southland have been focused on education in Crittenden County for many years through investments in scholarships and commitments to Arkansas State Mid-South,” Imomoh said. “Today, we proudly announce a significant partnership with ASU Mid-South with a $500,000 gift to endow four scholarships in honor of four local leaders to leave a legacy, positively impacting future generations.”

Debra West, chancellor of ASU Mid-South, said: “Southland has always been a staunch advocate for education in our community and a great partner to us at ASU Mid-South. We are so thankful to them, to Delaware North, and to the Jacobs Family for the establishment of these four endowed scholarships, as well as for their contribution to the Crittenden County Promise Program, which is one of only nine promise programs in the state and only the third in the Delta.

“Studies have shown that the benefits of promise programs are far-reaching, as they help remove both the financial and the mindset barriers to college access. Through these scholarships, Crittenden County residents will now know that higher education is a viable and affordable option for themselves and for their children.”  

About the Scholarship Honorees

Mary Toney, a West Memphis native who retired from Southwestern Bell Telephone Co. in 1999 after a 30-year career, has immersed herself in numerous community efforts for more than four decades. She has served as chair of the board of Mid-South Community College, the predecessor to ASU Mid-South, three times; is a charter member and president of Crittenden County Crime Stoppers; a former member and chair of the Arkansas Humanities Council; a former director for Citizens Bank in Marion; and a member of the Southland Board.

Cortez Kennedy, an Osceola native who died in 2017, was a star defensive tackle for the Seattle Seahawks who was elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2012. He was an ardent supporter of his Rivercrest High School, where he played on a state championship team in 1985, bringing fellow NFL players to football camps he held for local students. After his football career, Kennedy lived in Wilson and supported economic development officials in drawing businesses and other community efforts in the region.

Frank Martin, a West Memphis native who died in 2020, was a successful businessman who owned a tax-preparation firm and was president of Delta Office Supply. He served as West Memphis city treasurer for many years and was also a chairman of the West Memphis Design & Review Commission; treasurer and president of the West Memphis Chamber of Commerce; and president, vice president and treasurer of Crittenden Regional Hospital.

Hershel Owens of West Memphis is retired and previously served as chairman of the City of West Memphis Public Facilities Board and chairman of ASU Mid-South Board of Visitors. He was a partner at Dodge, Thomas, Goss & Owens Certified Public Accountants; past chairman of Crittenden Regional Hospital’s board; and a former member of the First National Bank of West Memphis board.

Pictured above: Breaking ground on Jan. 23 for the Carolyn and Ness Sechrest Animal Shelter and Adoption Center, a project being funded by Delaware North and Southland Casino Hotel for the City of West Memphis, are (left to right) Arkansas State Sen. Reginald Murdock; Louis Jacobs Jr., Delaware North project manager; Robert Thorne Jr., son of the former association president; Carolyn Sechrest; Ness Sechrest, chairman emeritus of the Southland board of directors; Osi Imomoh, Southland president and general manager; West Memphis Mayor Marco McClendon; Kerry Facello, director of the West Memphis Animal Shelter; West Memphis City Council Member Tracy Catt; and Tyler Ginn, an attorney who formerly represented the Arkansas Greyhound Kennel Association.

About Southland Casino Hotel

Southland Casino Hotel has been a major racing venue for more than 60 years and recently opened its newly expanded casino complex that boasts 2,400 total slot machines, as many as 50 live table games, sports betting and a new covered parking garage with over 1,400 spaces. Restaurants at Southland include The Kitchens – a unique buffet experience, Ignite Steakhouse, The Fry House, The Grind, Seasons Cafe and the Sports Bar & Grill – while new bars include the Chairman’s Bar, Charred Oak Bourbon Bar and the Ignite Steakhouse Bar. Southland has long been a pivotal fixture of the West Memphis community, strongly supporting the community with jobs, business stability, and economic contributions. It has consistently won awards for its outstanding community service, including millions of dollars donated to neighborhood charities and educational institutions. Southland is owned and operated by Delaware North, a global leader in hospitality and entertainment.

About Delaware North
Delaware North is a global leader in the hospitality and entertainment industry. The company annually serves more than a half-billion guests across three continents, including at high-profile sports venues, airports, national and state parks, restaurants, resorts, hotels and casinos. Building on more than a century of enduring partnerships and a commitment to local communities and sustainability, Delaware North’s vision is to delight guests by creating the world’s best experiences today while reimagining tomorrow. Learn more at and connect with us on FacebookTwitterInstagram and LinkedIn.

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