Shared Event/Evacuation Center Makes Sense – Medford News, Weather, Sports, Breaking News

The Labor Day fires that devastated large swathes of southern Oregon in 2020 showed how unprepared the region was for a major disaster that left thousands in need of a emergency shelter. The Jackson County Expo was commissioned, but it was not designed for this purpose and proved less than ideal as an evacuation center.

Now, Jackson County, the city of Central Point and the Expo are discussing a possible joint project that would result in a new center with a total price tag of $50-60 million. The facility would serve as a community center for Central Point, a regional events center for the Expo, and, in the event of a future disaster, an evacuation center that could serve displaced families with showers and change rooms.

Central Point officials have been discussing for several years a community center that could be built near Central Point Elementary School. The joint project would be built between the Expo and the Family Fun Center on land currently used for overflow parking.

Central Point City Council discussed the proposal Thursday evening, with councilors expressing strong interest in the shared facility as long as the city can be assured of dedicated access to the gymnasium space. The event center portion of the facility could include up to eight basketball courts, with all eight indoors or six indoors and two outdoors depending on the option chosen.

At this point, discussions suggested that the building would primarily be used by the city and Expo for events, with the county only being involved in major emergencies.

The city of Medford is working on an aquatics center and events complex that will also include basketball courts, but that shouldn’t be a reason to pass up the opportunity. A county with more than 200,000 people can easily use more courts and event spaces. This proposal would complement, not compete with, what Medford is building.

A shared facility that would meet the needs of the City of Central Point and Expo, while providing some peace of mind to county officials preparing for future disasters, is an ideal partnership that would spread the costs to benefit of the three entities and the Public.

Concerns about access to the city are legitimate and should be addressed, but any conflict should be easily resolved by all parties.

Time is a factor as construction costs continue to rise. Funding is another consideration; Central Point officials should probably ask residents to help pay the city’s share of the costs. Smoothing access policies will help convince residents that the project will serve their interests.

If all the details can be ironed out, this is a project that could serve the whole region for years to come.

Joseph K. Bennett