Arena to take over conference center operations

By Carlie Kollath/NEMS Daily Journal

TUPELO – The BancorpSouth Arena is on track to absorb operations of the BancorpSouth Conference Center.
The Tupelo Redevelopment Agency on Tuesday ended its contract with Master Hospitality Development Services, which has been leasing the conference center from the city and overseeing operations at the facility. Master Hospitality owns the Hilton Garden Inn location in Tupelo.
At the same meeting, TRA board members, which oversee the Fairpark District’s development, approved a new agreement for the Tupelo Coliseum Commission to oversee operations of the conference center.
The commission, which is responsible for the operations of the arena, is meeting today to vote on the agreement.
If the new contract is approved, arena staff on Thursday will begin overseeing conference center operations.
“From our perspective, it’s a good deal,” said TRA Chairman John Oxford.
Master Hospitality is paying a settlement of about $514,500 to end the lease. Oxford said Master Hospitality was behind on its payments to TRA and the settlement will bring the company up to date.
The settlement includes $75,000 worth of fixtures, tables, chairs, linens, office equipment and other supplies inside the conference center.
It’s unclear what will happen to the conference center’s employees.
“We’re still working through that,” said Todd Hunt, director of the BancorpSouth Arena.
He said the arena will have to add at least a sales director. He said the current employees of the conference center will not be automatically hired by the arena, but they are welcome to apply.
“It’s an open process as we look out for new employees,” he said.
Hunt and Oxford both said events already booked with the center will be honored. The deposits will be transferred, and weddings, family reunions and special events at the conference center will go on as planned.
“The consumer won’t be able to see any difference,” Oxford said.
In the future, catering will change. Previously, the conference center was the sole provider of food at events. Going forward, Oxford said, any restaurant or caterer will be able to do business there.
carlie.wells@journalinc.com