Chesterton Tribune



Study suggests refurbishments and additions for County Expo Center

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Porter County officials need not worry about relocating the Expo Center at the corner of Division Rd. and Ind. 49, but the facility stands to benefit from new additions and remodeling.

After presenting the County Commissioners with its analysis of sports complexes on Tuesday, Bill Krueger with Conventions, Sports & Leisure told what his firm found in studying the feasibility of the 30 year-old Expo Center and Fairgrounds.

“There is no reason to relocate. The layout is well-balanced. Things are operating as well as can be expected,” Krueger said.

Expo staff and members of the Porter County Fair Board sat in as Krueger stated that a redeveloped Expo Center would heighten the possibility of growing attendance for non-fair related events, retain current exhibitors, generate new visitors and provide a richer quality of life for residents by offering new events and entertainment options.

Interviewing County officials, tourism bureau members, Expo management, and others, CSL concluded the Expo is operating on a “break-even” mandate. A larger exposition space, a new covered arena and stalls for horses, and expanded Recreational Vehicle parking on the north would increase the Center’s marketability.

By expanding the Center’s exhibition space by 40,000 sq. ft., events could accommodate up to 3,200 additional attendees, attracting new consumer and trade shows.

To capitalize further on development, Krueger suggested rebuilding the livestock barn and show arena, adding an overhead cover to grandstand seating, building a new fair office and installing new entry gates.

Renovations are also desirable for restrooms, the Buggy Wheel Pavilion, the Expo East, the 4-H building and support buildings.

The grand total for all refurbishments suggested would be approximately $28 million to $30 million, Krueger said, the most expensive being the Expo Center space addition, estimated at $8 million, and $3 million for a new covered horse arena.

A full redevelopment would however generate $13.8 million each year within the county which is nearly twice the current impact. That translates to 84 new full-time and part-time jobs throughout Porter County, Krueger said.

The cost-benefit ratio according to the study would be $7.91 per each dollar expended by the County in debt service.

Commissioner President John Evans, R-North, asked County Auditor Vicki Urbanik how much money the County could bond for. Urbanik said she’s not sure what the figure is but said the County currently doesn’t have many lingering debts.

While the County may decide not to move immediately on new construction, Krueger said enhancing the Center’ aesthetics to a more modern appearance would be one step in attracting new visitors.

Fair Parking

Adding new facilities would however eliminate some spaces for parking, Krueger added, although a new parking lot is expected near the southwest entry.

Fair Board President Mark Baird said less parking area would be a concern to him as typically there are two nights during the fair when parking is at capacity.

Evans said parking can be discussed whenever there are plans for new construction.

Baird said that he plans to bring a list to the Commissioners soon of renovations he would like to see for the upcoming County Fair.


Posted 1/22/2015




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