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Revenue projections on proposed Farm Center exhibition hall presented

By JOYANNA LOVE/ Managing Editor

The Chiton County Industrial Development Authority executive committee received a feasibility study on the proposed multipurpose exhibition hall for the Alabama Farm Center during a meeting on Sept. 10.

“There is a market demand for this type of project that is measurable,” Bill Kruger of Conventions, Sports and Leisure said.

The building is proposed to be 52,200 square feet with a concrete floor and at least 35 feet high ceilings. An open floor plan without columns, but with walls that could be added to divide the space into smaller areas, was recommended.

Conventions, Sports and Leisure’s report estimated an annual operating revenue of $1.1 million for the facility if it had 133 events a year with an annual attendance of 154,600. Kruger said, ideally, whichever entity was running the day-to-day operations of the Farm Center would also be operating the exhibition hall. This revenue would go to the Alabama Agriculture and Exhibition Center Cooperative District.

However, local businesses and governments will benefit from money those coming to events spend outside the Farm Center perimeter.

“You are driving new tourism, new spending by visitors by people that would not otherwise be in the county, which is typically a really important piece that communities will look at,” Kruger said.

Hotel night stays are projected to be 24,300 as a result of this new tourism.

The study estimated that direct spending by attendees to events would total $12.2 million in and $8.3 million in indirect spending for an annual economic output of $20.5 million. This spending is estimated to generate $8.4 million in local tax revenue.

A cost for the building is yet to be determined because this would need to involve an architect.

“These tend to be the higher expenses to build buildings, but they tend to be the most flexible and versatile,” Kruger said.

Kruger said being a part of a larger project and the proximity of the project site to the interstate connecting Montgomery and Birmingham were factors that made an exhibition hall viable.

“We have looked at these types of complexes and these kinds of buildings in other markets and the ones that tend to be able to draw from one, if not two major metro areas within that hour, hour and a half kind of a range, tend to perform much better than facilities that are much more geographically isolated,” Kruger said.

With retractable seating, the space could host sporting events, conventions, trade shows, tournaments, concerts and meetings. Possible layout designs were presented.  It was recommended that the exhibition hall also have sports equipment available, so this would not have to be rented from other places by those wanting to host tournaments.

Part of gathering information for the feasibility study involved phone interviews with people who host these kinds of events.

Kruger highlighted that there are people who live in Chilton County going other places to hold event  that could be held in county with such a facility.

Projections put half of the activities in the exhibition hall as being related to other Farm Center events.