Officials look into regional ag expo center


Christian County officials are looking for community input and support for a proposed regional agriculture expo center.

County officials on Thursday held a series of focus group sessions at the James E. Bruce Convention Center in Hopkinsville, seeking input from local authorities in the agriculture and tourism industries, as well as area magistrates and members of the community. The sessions were part of a $45,000 feasibility study commissioned by Christian County Fiscal Court to gauge the possibility of constructing the regional center.

Christian County magistrate Darrell Gustafson said the center, if built, would ideally be utilized by Christian, Trigg and Todd counties, and funded on a proposed 70-20-10 percent split, respectively. Representation on a joint commission to oversee the project, should it go forward, would be a similar makeup, with 70 percent of the board members from Christian County, 20 percent from Trigg and 10 percent from Todd.

"We started this process I guess 20 years ago," Gustafson said. " â ¦ We thought that the time was right to again bring it up to see if there was public support to support a regional ag center."

No definitive plans have been set on building construction. Rod Markin, owner of Markin Consulting LLC, -- the company conducting the feasibility study on the project -- said the project was in its most preliminary stages. Markin said consultants were purely looking at the needs of the community and its resources at this point, meaning no cost estimates or time tables were available.

"One of the key things is that we look at the concept â ¦ of what we're proposing," Markin said. "â ¦ Really the idea here is to have a facility that will serve both the residents of three counties as well as attract visitors to the area to attend events that would be held at the expo center. We call it a market feasibility study; really the purpose of that is to evaluate the market potential, the range of the building cost and the feasibility of organizational structure and funding options for such a facility."

Markin said the study would examine whether the community had enough business to support the project, and if so what that project should entail in terms of size, cost and amenities based on that ability to support. Staffing and operational needs would also be addressed, Markin said.

The study will take roughly 90 days to complete, Markin said.

Trigg County Judge-Executive Hollis Alexander said there were a number of variables that would ultimately determine the county's participation for the project -- not the least of which was final cost estimates -- but in all, he said he supported the idea.

"I do think it could be a huge draw for our area," Alexander said. "I think it would serve a very, very large number of our agriculture community. â ¦ I like the idea, I like the concept and I'm very much for it. But it's like anything else, it'll all boil down to dollars and cents, if we can afford it or not, depending on what the buy in is."

Alexander said Gustafson and Christian County Judge-Executive Steve Tribble approached him about the possibility of a regional expo center in the summer at a judge's conference. Initially, Alexander said he was skeptical, but after thinking through the possibilities -- such as motocross, livestock shows and sales, archery meets and various other events -- he said he was more inclined to back the idea.

"I think they're looking at putting it out toward the Bruce Center," Alexander said. "(That's) about 15-20 minutes away from the largest percent of the population of Trigg County. I think it could be a major draw. We already partner on so many things. â ¦ It's not a secret when three counties work together or work under a regional concept, it's easier to obtain grant money."

As for now, however, Alexander said the county's participation would largely depend on the feasibility study findings.

"Once the study is done, that's when we'll start having actual discussions in (fiscal) court whether we're on board," he said.