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On Friday, August 8, the City of Oxford held an official groundbreaking ceremony for the construction of the city’s $26.6 million athletic complex.

According to City of Oxford City Council President Steven Waits, the complex is expected to generate about $13.5 million annually for the local economy.

The site’s location, within one mile of the Oxford Exchange shopping center, Oxford Commons and numerous hotels off Exit 188 of I-20, means the thousands of visitors to the complex can spend their money locally, Waits explained.

“With this, our schools are projected to receive an additional $150,000 annual in revenue from the retail school sales tax that is already in place,” Waits said.

The complex will also give Oxford High School its own regulation track facility. Two fields and accompanying stadiums will become the home fields for Oxford High’s varsity baseball and softball teams.

Set on land south of Choccolocco Creek, the complex’s construction required a Clean Water Act Section 404 permit for the fill of wetlands on a portion of the site. This permit, in turn, triggered obligations under the federal National Historic Preservation Act that led to a series of consultations and negotiations between the City of Oxford, the Muscogee (Creek) Nation, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, and the Alabama Historical Commission.

Balch & Bingham partner Jim Noles, whose legal practice encompasses matters of historical and cultural resources, represented the city in these negotiations and crafted the Memorandum of Agreement (“MOA”) that allowed the construction to proceed on land that was once home to the Muscogee (Creek) Nation’s forefathers.

“This has very much been a team effort,” Noles explained. “Give credit to Robert Perry, the project’s lead archaeologist, Goodwyn Mills Cawood’s Findley Frazer, the project’s permitting engineer, the City of Oxford’s leadership, and all of the MOA’s signatories in working together to get us to this point.”

The Muscogee (Creek) Nation and the tribe’s Arbeka people were represented at the ceremony by a five-person delegation that had traveled from Oklahoma for the event.

“I think the guidance provided by the Muscogee (Creek) Nation, Arnold Taylor and the Arbeka people, and in particular Tribal Historic Preservation Officer Emman Spain, has been critical to our success,” Noles said.

Construction of the athletic complex is anticipated to take another 15 months.