- Associated Press - Monday, December 22, 2014

OXFORD, Miss. (AP) - After the Oxford Board of Aldermen put a new activity center at the top of its priority list recently, the Oxford Park Commission went to work to form a plan.

The park commission has been pushing to get a new activity center for the past couple of years. To help gather information as to what the community would want in such a facility, the members of the commission conducted several surveys of community members and formed a focus group.

After compiling all the data, they handed it over to architect Will Lewis with JBHM Architects and asked him to come up with a conceptual plan if the center were to include all the amenities those people surveyed marked as being important to a new community center.

Lewis presented the “wish-list” conceptual plan to the Oxford Park Commission board this past week.

“This is probably not what will be built,” he said. “This is what we came up when including the top priorities from the surveys. This will change, probably many times.”

The aldermen have discussed moving Price Street north to give more land for a future park commission campus. The property used to be the city’s landfill site many years ago. Since, it was covered and grassed over, the city will have to dig up the landfill and fill it back in, which is estimated to cost about $500,000.

On the conceptual drawing presented by Lewis, the center is moved south to where the current Stone Park is located. The baseball field and playground were moved toward the front of the property where Price Street is.

“That land will probably present some challenges to build on due to it being a landfill, even after it’s cleaned up,” Lewis said. “So we felt it would be a good spot for the baseball field and green area.”

The drawing had the name of the center as Stone Park and Community Center and the two-story building was designed at 180,000 total square feet.

The actually programing space is 124,310 square feet and includes two indoor pools and an aquatic play area. There is a large walking track on the second floor as well as several classrooms, both wet and dry for art classes or lectures. There’s space for a day care and a senior citizen program area.

There are four multipurpose rooms, two for dance classes with wood floors and two geared toward athletics or martial arts. The gymnasium is designed at 80 by 100 feet.

The community survey was conducted from October through December 2013 and 816 people filled out the survey with 556 people answering every question. Of those surveyed, 64 percent of the 447 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, which garnered a 4.1 score on a scale of 1 to 5 of importance; a fitness/cardio area, with a 4.0; and an indoor swimming pool, with a 3.9 score.

Other items and services on the list included an after-school program, areas for arts and crafts and cooking classes, Wi-Fi and non-sport activities, such as jewelry making, chess and pottery. They wanted to see day care and babysitting services for those working out or taking a class. They wanted natural light and a large dividable space.

The survey also showed 63 percent would most likely support a small tax hike to build the new facility. About 36 percent said they would definitely support it and 28 percent said they would probably support it.

Lewis said most items or services that scored a 3 or more were included in the conceptual plan. He told the commission the drawing shows what the center could be if everything from the surveys are included and money wasn’t an issue. As presented, he estimated the cost to be about $250 a square foot, which would be about $45 million.

“I don’t consider this the plan that will be built,” Lewis said. “It’s to capture a concept of what it could look like if we identified everything from the surveys and what it could look like.”

The commission said the conceptual plan was a dream center and agreed to meet with city leaders during a work session to present the concept and then begin discussions of what may be changed and get an idea of what the city is willing to pay for a new center.

“This is a big enough deal and important enough to everyone that I believe everyone can figure out how to make it happen,” said park commission chairman Mike McGee.

Lewis said any cuts would drastically change the conceptual plan.

“It would have to be redone if you start cutting,” he said. “But that’s OK. This is going to change, like I said. It’s just a concept.”

Commissioner Alan Kimble agreed that the commission should present the conceptual plan, as developed by Lewis, to the aldermen, who asked park commission director Rob Boyd to develop a conceptual plan without guidelines. The park commission was asked to show the city leaders what a new activity center could look like.

“If you ask a kid what you want for Christmas without limitations, you’re going to get a big list,” he said. “So we start with the big list.”

The commission will meet with the Oxford Board of Aldermen soon.

___

Information from: Oxford Eagle, http://www.oxfordeagle.com

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