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First study results expected in October

Medford's quest to determine its conference center needs is moving methodically along, still in the first of potentially four phases.

The city hired HVS Convention, Sports & Entertainment Facilities Consulting in June to examine the region's needs and capabilities and explore possible options. The Chicago firm is working its way through Phase 1 in the first such study in a quarter century. The Oregon Legislature supplied $100,000 for the project during its 2015 session.

Medford Deputy City Manager Bill Hoke indicated the consulting firm and Johnson Economics of Portland are on task.

"We anticipate a written report on Phase 1 on or about 14 October," he said.

HVS has compared the feasibility of a conference center, a mixed-use development, and a resort-type facility based on interviews with various tourism organizations, local businesses and local government organizations, Hoke said.

"The initial work shows a mixed-use facility that could accommodate conference events and indoor sports has some promise toward strengthening Medford’s destination appeal and serving the local and regional communities," he said.

HVS prepared a web-based survey for an initial target audience of approximately 350 in-state meeting planners, Hoke said.

"There has been a low response rate so far," he said. "But Travel Oregon has agreed to send additional contacts to obtain more survey responses."

In a establishing a case for whether to advance to Phase 2, Johnson Economics is researching local economic trends and gathering information on competitive and comparable destinations in Oregon and Northern California. The city asked for seven to 10 case studies summarizing other jurisdictions' financial and operational experience.

"The data will help us understand existing conference facilities and how they improve their respective destinations," Hoke said. "It serves as a basis for building program recommendations in Phase 2 of the study.

To that end, HVS is analyzing all hotels within 30 miles of Medford to draw a more complete picture of the market’s trends and determine appropriate hotel recommendations.

Once Phase 1 findings are in hand, HVS will meet with the project advisory team to determine whether it's worth proceeding or to redirect the effort based on market findings.

"I do not believe we are at the decision point as yet on how to proceed," Hoke said. "The consultant is still gathering data and doing additional research prior to us circling back together and deciding on the next step."

— Reach reporter Greg Stiles at 541-776-4463 or business@mailtribune.com. Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/GregMTBusiness, on Facebook at www.facebook.com/greg.stiles.31.