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Aldermen Consider Private Leadership for Conference Center

conference centerThe Board of Aldermen met for a special work session meeting Thursday, to discuss private management for the Conference Center, replacing the old National Guard Armory with open-air event space and more road construction.
The Conference Center is still operating in the red, and the city recently solicited proposals, in the hunt for a private company that can run the center more efficiently than the city. The center is located off Highway 7 on Sisk Avenue.
The board was impressed by an offer from The Wilderman Group, a conference center management group located in Charleston, S.C. That group will be invited to Oxford for formal interviews in the near future, according to Alderman Jay Hughes.
“If it all works out, such a relationship could ensure that the conference center remains a viable part of our community’s economic fabric, and also allows it to prosper,” Hughes said.
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.
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.
National Guard Armory
The old National Guard Armory, located at the corner of Bramlett Boulevard and University Avenue, will be torn down after asbestos testing is completed. The board plans to solicit architectural proposals that include illustrations and ideas for a community pavilion and landscaping. The open-air event space would host concerts, farmers markets, ceremonies and family reunions, as a few examples.
oxford ms 088More Road Construction
The board recognizes Oxford’s need for several new roads, one from Highway 7 to the Oxford Commons/new high school area, clearing up traffic issues on Sisk Avenue. A second new road would connect the West Oxford Loop to FNC Park and continues to College Hill Road.
The Board of Aldermen and the Board of Supervisors will work toward an agreement, in the next couple of weeks, in the hopes of creating a plan for needed road construction. New roads could relieve traffic congestion, according to Hughes, and also open up new areas for growth.
Gretchen Stone is HottyToddy.com associate editor. Gretchen can be contacted about this story at Gretchen.Stone@HottyToddy.com

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