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Chamber Comments on Conference Center

The city may hire a private company to operate the Oxford Conference Center.
The city may hire a private company to operate the Oxford Conference Center.

The Chamber of Commerce board of directors is concerned about the future of the Oxford Conference Center, and is lobbying to keep it in use strictly as a conference center.
The group sent a letter out on Feb. 26 asking members to contact local elected officials to express their desire to keep the building open as a conference center.
The city is soliciting proposals from private companies, to determine if a different group can run the center more efficiently. The center is located off Highway 7 on Sisk Avenue. According to previous stories, the center loses about $350,000 each year, and eight years are left on the bond term. The original 2002 bond for construction was about $6 million, and with interest the city continues to pay about $380,000 each year on the bond.
In its request for proposal, the city states that the center is “the primary convention facility in Oxford, Mississippi.” Mayor Pat Patterson has said the space is not conducive to holding conventions. The RFP deadline is March 14, and proposals will be opened the next day.
The center, built in 2003, is home to the U.S. National Guard Readiness Center, the University of Mississippi Rifle Team and staff for the center. The city of Oxford owns the conference center. Cities with larger spaces use them for the dual purposes of holding both conferences and conventions, and sometimes as an entertainment venue.
The Chamber of Commerce, in its letter, said, “… we would like to see the Oxford Conference Center continue to operate as a meeting facility and economic development tool for our community. … We believe that better marketing of the facility is a much more viable option than repurposing the building.”
According to the letter, the Chamber and Economic Development Foundation both regularly use the conference center for events and in recruiting companies visiting Oxford.
The letter was sent out to all Oxford-Lafayette County Chamber of Commerce and EDF members.
Hollis Green, director of the center, said that if a private company is chosen to take over the space, it will decide if staff members are needed in their present positions or not. If a company to run the space is not found, according to previous comments from the major, another city entity such as the police department could move into the space.
Gretchen Stone is HottyToddy.com associate editor. Contact Gretchen about this story at Gretchen.Stone@HottyToddy.com 

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