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Oxford Park Commission takes home top honors from Mississippi Recreation and Parks

Once again, the top athletic and recreation facility in Mississippi is located in Oxford.

Oxford Park Commission took home five awards from the Mississippi Recreation and Parks Association on Oct. 23. One of the five honors was the Hayward “Bo” Phillips Design Award of Merit, awarded for the Ulysses “Coach” Howell Activity Center.

The $12 million activity center was completed in January and was named the top facility in the Class II category. It is the same award FNC Park won last year and the FNC Tennis Center claimed in 2017.

“We are certainly proud of the commitment made by city officials, county officials and our Board for the citizens of Oxford and Lafayette County,” said Seth Gaines, executive director of OPC. “The Coach Howell center provides so many opportunities for all ages in the area. We have been very pleased with the amount of people who have used the facility so far and we look forward to find new ways to use this great facility to our advantage for betterment of residents.”

The FNC Tennis Center was awarded the Special Events in Programming honor in Class II. The John Leslie Tennis Complex hosted the Mississippi High School Activities Association’s individual tennis state championship this spring. Nearly 600 high school tennis players competed in the three-day tournament which was held April 29 through May 1. It became the largest tennis tournament ever held in Oxford and the largest collection of players at one site for an MHSAA-sanctioned event.

“It’s another example of why we move to different venues and better venues,” said Ricky Neaves, associate director for MHSAA. “We’re always trying to do the best we can for our sports and with the availability of 20 courts and the cooperation we get from the park commission and the City of Oxford, it’s just a win-win for everyone involved. Especially our students and our parents.”

The 2020 individual state tennis championships will once again be held in Oxford.

A new class called FUNdamentals of Cooking for Kids took home first place in the Arts, Humanities and Programming series. Eliza Speed taught children ages 8 to 13 on the fundamentals of kitchen etiquette, food preparation and the implementation of recipes over the past six months.

Oxford Park Commission’s Sam Pryor was named Professional of the Year for his work in leading the activity center, and former OPC employee Kim Brasher was named Recreation Therapist of the Year.

“We have great workers who have or who continue to do a great job with the community in their respective field,” Gaines said. “We are very happy to have the MRPA acknowledge their dedication, their efforts and service.

Over the past four years, OPC has taken home 14 MRPA awards at the annual conference, which was held this year in Biloxi.