XENIA — Through a partnership between the Greene County Board of Commissioners and the Greene County Agricultural Society, a new exposition building has been planned for the fairgrounds.
The commissioners entered into an agreement with the Agricultural Society — or fair board — Dec. 19 for the construction and operation of the future building, which the parties decided must be completed by May 1, 2018 — just weeks ahead of the next Hamvention.
Hamvention, which currently has a three-year contract with the fairgrounds, brought nearly 30,000 people to the county last year. The next amateur radio operator convention will be held Friday-Saturday, May 18-20.
But county officials and fair board members predict the 20,000-square-foot expo center — to be built in the open green space along Fairground Road — will be more than just a “home” to Hamvention.
“This is a wonderful, unique relationship between two bodies working for the same goal. We really see the expo center as a real economic draw to the area,” County Administrator Brandon Huddleson said. “The Ag Society for years has allowed for some great events out there which together we see the potential to bring even more.”
Society President Jerry Liming said he was excited about the joint-venture and also about what this might mean for the fairgrounds.
“I think this is a golden opportunity for the county and the expo center to be growing, to bring in future events. Bigger events for the county help bring in dollars for taxpayers,” he said. “I think it’ll be a team effort to make things grow here, not only for the fairgrounds but for the county and the city, too.”
Huddleson implied that the decision between the two parties has evolved over time.
“By securing Hamvention last year it really opened both groups’ eyes to what an asset that expo center can be. Building the new building and having this partnership with the Ag Society will open the door for greater things to come at that facility,” he said.
Commissioners Tom Koogler and Alan Anderson agreed that the new building has the potential to boost economic development for the county and would benefit the whole region.
“It’s a good thing for the fair — fairs are changing. Fairs across the state have to find ways to succeed and keep moving,” Anderson said.
According to the agreement, if the building can be built for $1.5 million or less, the contract will continue and the structure will be constructed. If it cannot be built for that amount, the contract will terminate.
“You have protection in the agreement today,” Huddleson said to the commissioners, who ultimately passed the resolution 2-1.
Commissioner Bob Glaser voted “no” on the agreement, stating that he believed it was a premature decision without finalized costs.
“We’re building this whole thing based on one event. And we’re hoping if we build it they will come … My concern is — I just don’t want to be gambling with taxpayers’ money,” he said. “It’s not my money. It’s taxpayers’ money.”
The construction bidding process begins Friday, Jan. 5 with a pre-bid conference.
According to Huddleson, construction funds for the building will come from the general fund. Revenue from rentals will eventually allow the building to become self-sustainable, he said.
The board also agreed to provide a county employee to serve full-time as the Greene County Exposition Center Manager, which would manage the recruitment and oversight of booking events at the expo center.
Contact Anna Bolton at 937-502-4498.