By Alyssa Schnugg
While the new Oxford Activity Center has been open for a few months, on Wednesday more than 100 community members and government officials gathered on the basketball courts for a grand opening ceremony where accolades were given to all those involved in its creation and construction.
However, the event was bittersweet since one of those supporters was not present albeit the building with forever bear his name.
Before the ribbon was cut on the new Ulysses “Coach” Howell Activity Center, the late alderman’s daughter Kesha Howell-Atkinson said she knew her father was watching with pride.
“I know he’s smiling huge in heaven,” Howell-Atkinson said, “with his chest out and being so proud of this building and having his name on it. I would like to thank everyone in the city for their thoughts and their prayers and for reaching out to us during a real tough time.”
Howell died last month after suffering from a stroke. He served on the Oxford Board of Aldermen for 26 years and as the mayor pro tem, or deputy mayor, for 22 of those years.
Mayor Robyn Tannehill said the first time the building was considered in an aldermen board meeting was in November 2012.
“I know prior to a formal discussion in a board meeting, members of the Park Commission and members of Board of Aldermen had been talking about it for months, if not years, prior to that time,” she said. “With a lot of community input, a lot of planning and (former) Mayor Pat Patterson’s leadership and the Board of Aldermen moved forward in 2016 with the design and there were so many people involved with that.”
The 33,000-square foot building contains a large gymnastics area, basketball courts that can be converted for pickleball and volleyball, classrooms, a walking track that overlooks the courts and offices for staff.
Lafayette County Supervisor and Board President Jeff Busby said the county was honored o work with the city of Oxford in providing funds for its construction.
“It proves once again that working together, we can accomplish a lot for this community,” he said.
Oxford Park Commission Director Seth Gaines thanked all those involved in the process of building the new center, from the original conception by Patterson and the Board of Aldermen to the design from PryorMorrow architects to the construction managed by Innovated Construction Management team to the hard work and dedication from the OPC staff and the support from the community.
For more information about the programs offered through the Oxford Park Commission, visit https://www.oxfordparkcommission.com.