July 3, 2012 at 9:29 AM ET
A southern Oregon airport that drew heat last year for a plan to sell advertising space on its control tower is back with a new money-making scheme.
The Rogue Valley International-Medford Airport has transformed an empty room in its terminal into a meeting room that looks just like the Oval Office at the White House in Washington, D.C.
The oval-shaped room, which includes draperies, flooring, an antique clock and furniture patterned after images of the Oval Office that airport officials found on the Internet, will be rented out for meetings, ceremonies, weddings and photo ops.
“We’re in a small community and we operate as a business, without any local tax funds,” airport director Bern Case told msnbc.com. “So we hope this Oval Office idea will generate some dollars, add some culture and history to our community and give people something to do.”
Case said 25 area businesses and organizations participated in furnishing the room, which includes wood flooring in the same pattern currently in the real Oval Office and graphic wall coverings that include “doors” and “windows” that lead into private offices and look out onto the White House Rose Garden. The Resolute Desk is a version once used for a play performed at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival in Ashland, Ore., about 15 miles away.
“The completed room is pretty close to the original, without being the precise dimensions,” said Case.
Rates to rent the faux Oval Office will be $75 for four hours and $25 for a 15-minute photo op session. Anyone showing up at the airport’s Open House on July 4 dressed as a current or former president or first lady will get one free use of room and be entered in a contest for two round-trip tickets from Medford to Los Angeles.
Airports Council International - North America, the trade association for North American airports, knows of no other airport with a replica of the Oval Office for rent. “But airports continue to look for unique opportunities to enhance non-aeronautical revenue while improving the passenger experience across the United States and Canada,” said Debby McElroy, ACI-NA executive vice president for policy and external affairs.
While some airports are earning revenue from activities such as on-site pet hotels and land leases for farming and oil-drilling, last year the Rogue Valley International-Medford Airport had to nix its plan to rent out space on its 100-foot-tall control tower due to local dissent over the plan.
“That was a bit controversial,” said Case, “but the Oval Office is approved and ready to go.”
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