Oxford fun

The remains of an old cotton mill on what's now known as Spring Branch Road in Oxford mark the general location proposed for a city event and entertainment center.

The city of Oxford plans to borrow up to $5 million to help develop a city event and entertainment center, according to a public notice posted Monday.

According to the notice, the center will be built “on and around” the site of the former Blue Spring cotton mill in Oxford, on Spring Branch Road, on the opposite side of Alabama 21 from a Wal-Mart Supercenter and just south of Interstate 20. Bond money will pay part of the cost of buying land and building the facility, which will be owned and operated by 360 Media, an LLC registered in Calhoun County, according to the secretary of state’s website.

The facility will include “an indoor go-cart track, an indoor trampoline park, a laser tag venue, an indoor miniature golf course, indoor miniature bowling lanes and an arcade game venue,” according to the notice.

Members of the City Council last week unanimously voted to allow Mayor Alton Craft to hire Montgomery investment banking firm Frazer Lanier Company and prepare a preliminary official statement for the bond issuance. The council will have to vote again on the bond issue during its next meeting on April 23 at 6:30 p.m.

During the council’s previous meeting, City Council president Chris Spurlin said the facility would allow residents to hold indoor sporting events and conferences. He declined to offer more detail at that meeting.

In a phone call Monday, Spurlin declined to share specifics about the project, and said some particulars were still being decided.

Attempts to reach Craft by phone were unsuccessful Monday and Tuesday.

Greg Morrow is listed as 360 Media’s registered agent with the secretary of state’s office. In a phone call with the Greg Morrow who owns Anniston-based company Southern Custom Exhibits, Morrow declined to offer detail on the site, including its size, exact location or a timeline of its construction, and said that the company was “not ready to make an announcement.”

According to the notice, the purpose of the city’s investment is to “promote the local economic and industrial development” of Oxford, by providing more jobs, improving public facilities and raising quality of life for residents.

Brent Cunningham, a marketing professor at Jacksonville State University’s school of business, spoke to the general viability of projects like the one Oxford appears ready to help fund.

“They’re looking for that synergy effect,” Cunningham said by phone Tuesday, noting that pairing several activities can create a “stronger gravitational pull” that may bring a high volume of visitors.

“If the whole family goes there and afterward goes to eat out, the economic impact is going to be fairly good for the local businesses,” he said. He noted that the facility will be “in competition for those entertainment dollars from the family purse.”

The project is the second major development announced on Oxford’s stretch of Alabama 21 in recent months; in March the council voted to help fund the redevelopment of the Quintard Mall in partnership with Hull Property Group, an Augusta, Ga.-based firm that owns 32 mall properties in the United States. Hull bought the mall in 2017 for $6.76 million, according to county probate records, a purchase that didn’t include Dillard’s, Amstar Cinemas or the Sears building, which Oxford bought for $1.5 million earlier that year.

John Mulherin, Hull’s vice president of government relations, said in March that renovations at the mall would include higher ceilings, brighter colors and a possible rebranding to “The Oxford Mall.” Other possible updates include converting some stores to face outward from the mall, with exterior entrances.  

The city committed payments to Hull totaling as much as $16.5 million for as many as 25 years to help fund the renovation.

Assistant Metro Editor Ben Nunnally: 256-235-3560. 

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