The idea of an Expo Center that’s been in talks for years could re-emerge in the near future.
With news of the National Junior High Finals Rodeo coming to Lebanon in 2016, the Wilson County Commissioners in favor of the Expo Center could use that as influence to get an approval for the new development.
“I’m sure the issue is going to come back up,” Commissioner Clint Thomas said. “The rodeo coming is definitely something that could be used as leverage to get the Expo Center built.”
Thomas said he thought that attracting big events like the rodeo was part of the argument in favor of getting the center in the first place.
“An argument could be, ‘you know we’ve got this rodeo but now we need a place to hold it’,” Thomas said. “They’re coming regardless though.”
In the past, Commissioner Jeff Joines has voiced his strong support of the project.
Joines said the center would create a climate-controlled space on the fairgrounds and be around 80,000 square feet. It would be placed front and center near the main entrance of the Ward Agricultural Center. He also said the building would be large enough to hold conventions and shows that the county can’t accommodate now.
Funding for the center had been proposed by specifically using the money from a $3 tax increase from the hotel/motel tax.
Wilson Mayor Randall Hutto expressed support for the center but acknowledged many still have questions.
"From my seat, the only way to lighten the burden on property owners is to increase sales tax revenues," he said, adding he spoke to another county mayor who said the creation of an expo center there was a success.
However, the commission pumped the brakes on the Expo Center plan earlier this year and decided in favor of a feasibility study in order to get lingering questions answered before they decided on anything.
The commission voted to spend $15,000 from a capital projects fund to pay for the study.
Hutto said he would do everything he could to give everyone the information they needed to make a decision.
“I think the results are due out in Septemeber,” Thomas said. “So this project could be back up for discussion after that.”