Expo center plans moving forward
Wythe County is negotiating to purchase nearly 100 acres of land between Wytheville and Fort Chiswell to be the site of a proposed regional exposition center.
In addition, county supervisors recently voted to apply for a $3 million grant from the Virginia Tobacco Commission to help with the center.
The property, 95.62 acres, is located near the Flying J Travel Plaza on Interstate-77/81 at Exit 77. It is owned by Robert Dorton of Abingdon, who owns other property in the area.
According to Wythe County tax records, the parcel is part of a 113-acre site that is valued at $1,531,400.
Wythe County Public Tourism Director Jeremy Farley said the facility will be called the Appalachian Regional Exposition Center and will be governed by a board made up of people representing financial contributors, the agriculture industry and local government.
“This past weekend’s U.S. 21 Road Market testified to the tremendous revenues tourism events have the potential to generate for Wythe County,” he said “The proposed facility will be used to help Wythe County become a preferred destination for travelers by hosting concerts, agriculture events, fairs, motocross, rodeos and a countless number of other activities, including training sessions and educational workshops. We’re being proactive in creating opportunities for growth and are excited about the many things ahead for Wythe County.”
The decisions to purchase the property and apply for the grant were not unanimous votes. Supervisor Gary Houseman voted against both motions. In past board discussions, Houseman has expressed concern about handing operations over to the committee, saying that the county may be more involved in the project that it wants to be.
The county turned in the grant application to the Tobacco Commission last week. Officials will find out in the fall if the county will receive the grant money.
The idea of an exposition center in Wythe County has been bandied about for years, but funding has been scarce until now. Mark and Nancy Munsey have campaigned for an expo center for years.
Munsey said his nonprofit group will help raise funds for the center and another committee, which has not been appointed, will oversee center operations.
As of now, plans call for seating for up to 6,000 people; 3,000 seats will be permanent with another 3,000 seats available.
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