Columbia County Merchants Association board members recently discussed a proposed partnership with Columbia County government to build a multi-purpose building at the association's fairgrounds.
"The general principal has been agreed to," former Merchants president Bobby Herrington said at a recent board of directors meeting.
In November, Columbia County voters approved building a $2 million multi-use building at the fairgrounds on Columbia Road using funds from a $33-million bond package to be repaid with the 2011-2016 Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax.
The building, which is still in the planning stages, is expected to be about a 60,000-square-foot open-air arena similar to the Hippodrome in North Augusta, said Marilyn Heuer, the county's Public Relations manager.
Though not yet designed, the building also is expected to include bleachers and half-side walls to provide some protection from weather elements, Heuer said.
Merchants have looked into the feasibility of constructing such a building, one they hoped would house the annual Southeastern Firefighters Burn Foundation Rodeo, among other events held at the fairgrounds.
"It'd be at least a few years," Herrington said, adding that the proposed building is exactly what his group had in mind. "That building is bigger than the rodeo. The rodeo will fit in it."
The county will fund the construction and the Merchants are donating the land.
"We're going to put the land up," Herrington said. "That is going to be our only expenditure."
The facility will be available for rent with a percentage of the rental fees going to the Merchants for maintenance of the grounds, Herrington said.
Heuer said county officials hope the facility will be rented out for a variety of events, including rodeos, home and garden shows and high school graduations.
Herrington said he and other Merchants have been meeting with county officials while the county requests proposals to design the facility.
There is no timeline for the project, but Herrington said he hopes the building is complete by the time of the Merchants' 2010 fall fair.
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