Civic Center getting boost from city

Published 6:02 am Wednesday, May 31, 2023

20-year-old facility has new director, plans to re-energize

Batesville aldermen approved the hiring of Oxford entertainment consultant Rodney Holley as director of  the Batesville Civic Center two weeks ago, with hopes of making it more of a destination for national music acts who are looking to tour through the region.

Holley was promoted to replace current director Roy Hyde, who has been in charge of day-to-day operations at the facility since it opened 20 years ago. Holley was hired part-time in November of last year to seek out and promote music groups for the Civic Center, and comes to his new position with a general understanding of the facility and its management.

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Although no concerts have yet been booked, city officials are continuing their efforts to give the two-decade old Civic Center a boost of infrastructure support and promotion, anticipating the time when nationally-known bands and groups include Batesville on their tours across the Southeast and country.

More than one speaker and official at the luncheon made note of Batesville’s strategic location at the crossroads of a major U.S. interstate and the highway that runs across North Mississippi.

The new director was introduced at a luncheon last week at the Civic Center hosted by Mayor Hal Ferrell and attended by Batesville business and civic leaders.

“We were blessed to have Roy Hyde for many years at the Civic Center and we thank him for all his hard work over the years,” Ferrell said at the event. “We wish him well in his retirement and look forward to the great things that will be happening at the Civic Center very soon.”

Besides the new director, aldermen have in recent months have approved renovations in several areas, including fresh paint in meeting rooms, and guest reception area. Plans are being discussed for a complete retro fitting of the lighting system with cost-saving LED fixtures, and long term plans for parking lot repaving are board goals.

The Civic Center has stayed relatively busy in recent months, but the efforts to re-energize the campus, are necessary to move the facility forward in both community involvement and regional use. “There are just lots of things that you will be seeing here in the future, and I think you will be proud of this great opportunity we have here,” Ferrell said. 

Lunch for the invited guests included fish and chicken with sides and dessert served by Taylor Grocery Catering, also a new addition to the Civic Center. Aldermen earlier this year approved the Lafayette County company as the concession vendor for the facility.

Holley, an Ole Miss graduate and Batesville native, spoke to the gathering, saying he recalls watching the Civic Center being built while living here, and is excited to be part of the future of the facility. “I can remember when it was built thinking that would be my dream job, and now I have it,” he said. “You have a great venue here, it always has been.” 

“I was offered the job and accepted,” said Holley, who has a long music promotion resume.  His experience allows him to take on a variety of duties, as is required to make the much-anticipated feat successful, from the venue being used infrequently to a more regular basis and for a broader range of purposes.  

Holley, who signed a one-year contract,  said his priority is  “creating more activity, activity, activity.”

He  is enthusiastic about catching the wake of touring musical artists eagerly getting back on the road in 2023, after the lull of the pandemic.  He publicly set a goal to have a major music event each month, which many in the community have anxiously anticipated. 

One major obstacle has been the physical acoustics of the venue, which weren’t originally forseen to accommodate the volume of some of today’s musical acts, but rather equestrian events and such – and in more recent years, kart and motorcycle racing have accounted for most of the special bookings.  

The city board has been working closely with Panola Partnership CEO Joe Azar on this issue as well, and already have fixes underway.  

Some other goals include updating conference rooms with installation of electronic media and refurbishing them to provide an efficient and conveniently located meeting place.  Also providing  inside floor walking lanes, indoor tennis, pickle ball and other such physical activities, accommodating all ages.

Ferrell has been a big advocate of increasing use of the Civic Center, and has expressed his confidence in Holley’s taking over the reins.  

“When I first learned that Rodney was interested in the opening at BCC, I sensed he would be a natural fit,” said Mayor Ferrell.  “When I asked others what they thought about him, they echoed my opinions.  Therefore, with confidence concerning the future plans of the City of Batesville for re-energizing the Civic Center, Holley has been selected BCC Events Manager.”

Holley anticipates more substantial updates after we enter summer, as he begins to get settled in his position, and assures to have a “100 day and beyond plan” to share at that time.

“Growing up in Batesville, Rodney always had a heart for Batesville where he has many lifetime friends.  With his energy, keen vision, talent, and experience he plans to expand the use of the BCC with broader ranges of services, programs, and events to generate revenue in our community,” Ferrell said.