Conference center gets debt grace

TUPELO – The Tupelo Redevelopment Agency has agreed to give the BancorpSouth Conference Center a yearlong reprieve on its debt payments, the TRA chairman said Monday.
John Oxford told the newly sworn-in City Council members at a work session Monday that the economy has taken a toll on the conference center and it has been “struggling.”
“We’re just trying to do everything we can to keep that conference center viable,” Oxford said. “We’re not giving them a free ride. We’re tacking the payments onto the end … Basically, we’re giving them a little breathing room to weather the economy.”
A spokesperson from the BancorpSouth Conference Center was unavailable after the work session ended at 6 p.m.
TRA, which governs and operates the Fairpark District, owns the land under the BancorpSouth Conference Center. Master Hospitality, which owns the conference center, makes lease payments to TRA.
In exchange for a reprieve, Master Hospitality has agreed not to take a management fee. Oxford said the decision won’t affect employees, though, and people will still be paid.
Oxford said TRA has been meeting with hotel and conference center representatives during the past few months to discuss financial options. TRA members agreed in an executive session late last month to grant the reprieve, but the decision was not made public until Monday.
Oxford said TRA members will vote on the agreement at the agency’s next meeting. The council’s approval is not needed, but Oxford said he wanted to keep them informed in the spirit of open meetings.
During his talk to the council, Oxford tied the down economy and Toyota’s delay to the slowdown at the conference center.
He said the conference center is working on additional plans, but directed questions to conference center staff, who were unavailable late Monday.
The reprieve is for one year. Oxford said TRA can review the issue next year to see if another reprieve is needed.
Kim Hanna, the city’s interim chief financial officer, said the reprieve won’t affect the city’s budget.

Contact Carlie Kollath at (662) 678-1598 or carlie.kollath@djournal.com.

Carlie Kollath/NEMS Daily Journal