Rain has slowed construction of the multi-purpose arena at the Bulloch County Center for Agriculture, but officials remain hopeful the project will be completed by the end of the year and events will be booked by late spring or early summer.
“We expect to finish sometime in December,” said Bulloch County Manager Tom Couch. “They (the construction company) feel they can catch up and be done by sometime in December.”
A Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax referendum in 1998 that passed by 93 percent, led to the reservation of more than $6 million for the planned three-phase project: an office complex, a conference center and an arena. The office complex was built, but plans for the conference center were abandoned. The arena is now under construction.
Over the course of 18 years, however, some of the funds were legally transferred to other areas, Couch said, leaving $4.5 million available for the project.
The facility will include a a covered performance arena with bleacher seating for 3,000, a covered practice arena, 218 stalls, grooming and bathing bays and RV hookups, with additional camping space for self-supporting camps. These will all be connected by covered walkways.
With the main arena already underway, construction of a practice arena and livestock barns is to begin in a couple weeks. With luck and good weather, the county could begin booking events as “early as May or June,” he said.
Bulloch County Parks and Recreation Director Mike Rollins said rain delayed construction as well as site work, which is being done by county workers, who have had to spend more time repairing roads due to heavy rainfall.
He said he is excited about the project, and said several organizations have already contacted him and other county officials about booking events. However, events won’t be booked until the facility is completed, he said.
The county will advertise soon for a complex manager – someone who is “multi-talented, with a background in the horse industry, who would be able to be there for events, set up and take down,” he said.
Pope Construction is heading the project, with a design by architect Jim Ingram, who designed the Bulloch County Animal Shelter.
Herald reporter Holli Deal Saxon may be reached at (912) 489-9414.