Arena officially takes over conference center today

By Carlie Kollath Wells/NEMS Daily Journal

TUPELO – As of today, the BancorpSouth Arena officially is in charge of the neighboring BancorpSouth Conference Center.
The Tupelo Coliseum Commission, the governing agency of the arena, on Wednesday approved a management contract that holds TCC responsible for all operations of the conference center. The vote came a day after another city board – Tupelo Redevelopment Agency – terminated its lease contract with Master Hospitality to run the conference center.
Master Hospitality owns the Hilton Garden Inn location in Tupelo and has run the conference center since it opened. However, TRA, which oversees Fairpark, said the company was behind on its lease payments so the company signed a $514,500 settlement to end the contract.
Yet, don’t expect to see any major changes at the conference center this month. The arena is paying Master Hospitality to continue running the center’s operations in January.
And Todd Hunt, director of the arena, told the Coliseum Commission on Wednesday that the caterer and food service employees were staying on this month in order for the arena to be able to honor all of the previous bookings.
Hunt said he plans to put out a request for bids for a sole caterer for the conference center, similar to the setup at the center now.
There was some discussion at Wednesday’s meeting about having a list of approved caterers, similar to how the arena operates. However, Hunt said it logistically makes more sense to have one caterer for the conference center for the remainder of the fiscal year.
The employees’ status at the conference center remains uncertain. Representatives were unavailable Wednesday at the center and at Hilton Garden Inn to comment.
Hunt and Scott Reed, chairman of the commission, both said they expect to save money by using current arena employees to handle operations at the conference center.
“We know there is synergy,” Reed said. “If we are asking the (arena) staff to step up and take on more responsibilities, there’s a cost to that. Less cost to that than adding a whole new group of people? Probably so.”

carlie.wells@journalinc.com