Oxford mulls closing conference center

Oxford StockBy Errol Castens

Daily Journal

OXFORD – Officials will meet today to discuss ways to stem the negative cash flow of the Oxford Conference Center.

The facility, built in 2004 near the Sisk Avenue/Highway 7 interchange in partnership with the Mississippi National Guard and the University of Mississippi, provided a jump-start for the Oxford Commons development.

City officials were unaware at the time that the university would build its own conference center and hotel facility. The Inn at Ole Miss opened in 2008 and began taking much of the anticipated conference business.

While the Oxford Conference Center hosts a variety of events from wedding receptions and indoor flea markets to business and public agency meetings, its operation runs a deficit of some $350,000 per year.

“Hollis (Green, the Conference Center’s manager) and his crew do as good a job as we could ask of them, but it’s costing too much,” said Mayor Pat Patterson.

Ideas that have surfaced range from housing the police department there to selling it outright.

Hotelier Chan Patel would be among those most directly affected. His company, Charter Road Hospitality Inc., owns a Hampton Inn across from the Conference Center and plans soon to open an adjacent long-stay Marriott.

“Throughout the last four years we have supported the conference center and worked in conjunction with its staff to facilitate economic development in the Oxford community and within Lafayette County,” Patel said in a written statement. “We feel strongly that the conference center is a necessary asset to the Oxford community. Further, the addition of a second hotel adjacent to the conference center and the recent development plans occurring within the Oxford Commons area further demand the need for such a facility. The conference center enhances the entire area’s economic and tourism impact.”

The Mayor and Board of Aldermen will meet this morning at 11 in the City Hall Conference Room. Patterson said any decision would not come before a likely public hearing sometime in January.