Conference center resumes payments

By Carlie Kollath/NEMS Daily Journal

TUPELO – The BancorpSouth Conference Center has resumed making lease payments to the city after getting a year’s reprieve.
Master Hospitality last week sent a check for $61,821.16 to the Tupelo Redevelopment Agency, which oversees the redevelopment of Fairpark, where the conference center is located.
The amount, according to TRA Chairman John Oxford, is for nine months of back pay for lease obligations of $5,000 per month. The remainder is back payment of prorated sales tax rebates from the state, he said.
Guy Mitchell, TRA’s attorney, is holding the money until the TRA board meets next week to sign off on the contract amendment for the center. TRA then will give the money to the city.
Once the city receives the money, it will be used to pay off debt from buying and developing Fairpark, according to City Clerk Kim Hanna.
The new amendment calls for Memphis-based Master Hospitality to pay back $5,000 monthly plus sales tax rebates until July. Then, the contract calls for the company to return to its full monthly payments of $25,000.
However, Oxford said the TRA board will review and negotiate the contract with Master Hospitality in July.
“The good thing is we’ve got a paying tenant back on the books,” Oxford said. “We’re happy to have the conference center operating, even though it’s been a tough economic environment.”
Master Hospitality also owns the Hilton Garden Inn in Tupelo, but the repayment is for the conference center only.
TRA owns the BancorpSouth Conference Center. Master Hospitality in 2004 signed a 20-year lease to operate and manage the conference center and to make lease payments to TRA.
In summer 2009, TRA granted Master Hospitality a year’s reprieve on making debt payments after the conference center asked for three years’ leniency due to the tough economy.
The reprieve came after Master Hospitality already had missed six months of payments.
All of the missed payments have been tacked on to the end of the contract, Oxford said. No extra interest will be charged, Mitchell said.
In exchange for the reprieve, Master Hospitality agreed not to take a management fee.
Contact Carlie Kollath at (662) 678-1598 or carlie.kollath@journalinc.com.