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Oxford Activity Center close to reality

If all goes smoothly, Oxford could have a new activity center in less than three years.

Plans for the new center are moving forward, according to Oxford Park Commission Director Seth Gaines.

Once the Oxford Board of Aldermen agreed on a monetary figure of $7 million to fund a new center, the plans started gaining momentum.

OPC worked with GreenPlay LLC marketing firm to conduct a community survey in 2013 with 816 people filling out the survey. Of those surveyed, 64 percent said it was important to them to have a new Oxford Activity Center.

The top three amenities people said they wanted in the new facility were: a walking track, a fitness/cardio area, and an indoor swimming pool.

In 2014, the Board of Aldermen listed building a new activity center as one of their top priorities; however, no dollar figure was settled on then. A year later, in November 2015, Gaines said he was given the $7 million commitment from the city.

The Board of Aldermen approved OPC working with Innovative Construction Management that would oversee the building of the new center as project manager.

“They would big everything out,” Gaines said. “They take the place of a general contractor. The University of Mississippi has used them on several projects and it saved them a lot of money versus just using a general contractor. More money saved, means more money we can spend on the center.”

The city also recently approved hiring Pryor-Morrow Architects to design a $7 million activity center. The contacts are still being reviewed by legal counsel and pending final signatures, according to Gaines. He expects that process to be complete within a week.

“We’ve sent them the survey information for them to get an idea of what the community wants in a new activity center,” Gaines said.

Gaines said he told the architects the center must have a large multi-use area with lots of floor space, classrooms and a common area.

“Sort of like the student union — an open area with chairs and couches, maybe a pool table, ping pong and tables set up for dominoes and chess,” Gaines said. “We’d also want one controlled entrance.”

Gaines said he doesn’t know what will happen with the current facility, but the architects will look at it and see how it best fits in with a new center.

“They could recommend building a new center and renovating the current one or taking it down,” he said. “I just can’t say right now until the architects have time to review the land we have. It’s like a big puzzle.”

The city is currently moving Price Street north to give the OPC more room for its new center. The road will veer north just before the activity center and join Molly Barr Road near the Oxford City Shop, past the Oxford Police Department. That project is expected to be complete by the end of the year.

“Nothing can happen until Price Street relocation is complete,” Gaines said. “I expect within the next month or so we’ll start having some design meetings.

“I think in two years, Oxford will either have a new activity center or the project will at least be well underway at that point.”