The Union County Fair Board is looking for public support to build a 20,000 square foot, year-round event center on the fairgrounds. (Photo submitted)
The Union County Fair Board is asking Marysville to help construction of an expo building.
At Monday night’s work session, representatives of the fair board asked the city to contribute $250,000 — $50,000 for five years— to the project to build a 20,000 square foot, year-round event center.
The event center would be built on the site of the current Merchant’s Building near the Route 31 entrance. The event center is in addition to the new 12,800 square foot cattle barn currently under construction on the fair grounds.
“We really, really need public sector support,” said Matt Hughes, with the consulting group Fair Funding.
Hughes said he is hoping to use “in the neighborhood” of $1 million in city, county and state money to fund the project. He said the group will ask for the city and county dollars first before approaching the state to fund the remainder as part of the next capital budget, which supports large scale community projects.
Hughes said the state likes to provide the final money for a project to move forward.
“They don’t want to be the first. They don’t want to be in the middle,” Hughes said.
He added that if the project can demonstrate that city and county officials are in agreement supporting the project, “we believe the state will be in lockstep.”
Hughes said the state funding will be “a game changer.”
Fair officials have said the proposed building is a community need.
Hughes said that as officials looked at options to enhance the fair and fairgrounds, the community response was “a resounding, ‘We need meeting space.’”
Michelle Kuhlwein, with the fair board, said many times local groups looking to host large events are forced to go outside the county for space. She said people look at the Madison County Fairgrounds, which has the large space, but no hotel bed space or access to major highways.
“We are blessed to have everything to bring people to Marysville, we just don’t have the building,” Kuhlewin said.
Hughes said the proposed event center “is not your typical fair building.” He said it will be a “showcase for the community.”
The year-round facility will offer meeting rooms, exposition space, outdoor gathering spaces, a prep kitchen, loading dock and climate control.
Hughes said the size and amenities of the building are “fundraising dependent.”
He said the center will be large enough to hold up to 1,000 people, or 600 if they are seated.
“That’s heads in beds. That’s people in restaurants. That is tax dollars for the city,” Hughes said.
He said officials envision using the space for things like meetings, specialty shows, weddings, sporting events, proms and community emergency events like mass vaccination clinics. Hughes said the building could also provide space for local non-profit organizations as well an incubator space for start-up businesses.
Council member Mark Reams said the Catholic Community Center, as well as the currently-under-construction Avalon Theatre and building at Innovation Park have meeting space.
“There is only so many events,” Reams said.
Officials said the site will be larger than any of the other meeting spaces in the county.
Hughes said the fair board is looking at the 50-acres fairground and building as an income generator for the board and economic driver for the community. According to fair board projections, the building will be occupied 20 weekends a year at $5,000 and at least 25 days at $1,000.
Council member Deb Groat said that in addition to putting city money to the project, council members need to put up their own money.
“If you care about your fairgrounds, put your money where your mouth is,” she said.