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Public meeting called to mull future of convention center

OXFORD — The city of Oxford is planning a public meeting for Dec. 17 about the future of a local convention center.

The city took back control of the Oxford Conference Center in November from the Oxford Tourism Council. Mayor Pat Patterson said at that time that no decisions had been made as to its future.

Patterson said he had originally planned on setting up the meeting in January but due to rumors and “misinformation,” he decided the meeting needed to be held sooner.

The Oxford Eagle reports that the conference center, built in 2004, has been losing several hundred thousand dollars a year in revenue, although the loss has declined in recent years. The center has lost an average of about $350,000 in the past two fiscal years.

While conference centers nationwide are never considered big money makers, some believe other benefits to the city could outweigh the costs of operation.

Aldermen asked City Clerk Lisa Carwyle to bring to the public hearing figures on the revenue, costs and projected amounts of tourism tax the conference center may bring into the city.

“Some believe we’re getting our money back on overnight hotel stays and 2 percent food and beverage tax but my belief is we aren’t making it back,” said alderwoman Robyn Tannehill. “But we need to have all this information for the public if they ask questions.”

Patterson said the $350,000 the city spends each year running the center could be spent on several other community projects. He said no decision on whether to close the center has been made and all options are being considered, including whether it can be leased or sold to other entities.

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