Since You Asked: Airport’s Oval Office produces revenue

I would like the paper to report a story about a room built in the Medford airport that is a replica of the Oval Office in the White House. Why was it built, when was it built, for whom, and what is the purpose — the reason — for keeping this intact? Is this room used by the tax-paying public? — Caroline M., by email

Caroline, we’ve actually reported on this in the past on a few occasions, but we’re happy to provide a refresher course.

The Oval Office replica opened in 2012 on the second floor of the terminal building in the midst of the Great Recession, with then-Airport Director Bern Case saying, “During these tough economic times, you have to be creative and think outside the box to generate revenue.”

The 100,000-square-foot terminal building opened in 2009, with lots of room for growth. The Oval Office was put together in an office space that otherwise was sitting empty, “just empty space and bare sheetrock,” according to a current employee.

The space is rented out for ceremonies, meetings and events. Airport officials say they rent the space out about twice a month on average. The cost is $85 for four hours, plus a $50 refundable cleaning deposit.

That fee, set by the county, is the same for all airport meeting spaces, including the airport’s grounded KC-97 airplane, which is rented very frequently for birthday parties and other events.

While the Oval Office produces some revenue, it also produces good will, as it’s often provided to nonprofits as a fundraising prize and to other community organizations, such as school groups.

All of that costs the airport nothing beyond providing the space. More than two dozen sponsors were involved in the project, donating decorations and furnishings, including a replica of the Resolute Desk. The wood flooring replicates the same pattern that’s in the White House, and three-dimensional wall coverings portray book shelves and a view through the window into the famed Rose Garden.

Send questions to “Since You Asked,” Mail Tribune Newsroom, P.O. Box 1108, Medford, OR 97501; by fax to 541-776-4376; or by email to youasked@rosebudmedia.com. We’re sorry, but the volume of questions received prevents us from answering all of them.

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