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'Mixed use agricultural arena' to be built in Statesboro
Tom Couch horse for web
Bulloch County Manager Tom Couch stands on the site of the future horse/multi-use arena off Langston Chapel Road in this file photo from 2006. Couch gave an update on the area to Kiwanis Club members Thursday. - photo by Special
In about two years, Bulloch County will be able to host top level horse shows, rodeos, concerts and much more when the "mixed use agricultural arena" is completed.
    Bulloch County Manager Tom Couch told the Statesboro Kiwanis Club Thursday the original idea to build a conference center and then an arena at the Langston Chapel Road site were changed to the mixed use idea. The Bulloch Center for Agriculture currently is located on the site.
    The current office building houses several agricultural agencies and serves as a "one stop center for agricultural services," he said.
    But research and market studies pointed out to commissioners that the planned second phase, a conference center, could be a financial liability instead of a money-maker. However,  those studies also revealed that an arena would likely bring in revenue quickly.
    Commissioners decided to move ahead with the arena, he said.
    In addition to realizing the arena would be the more lucrative choice, commissioners also found Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax (SPLOST) monies were not as much as originally expected. Instead of around $12 million, county coffers only held about $5.5 to $6 million, he said.
    Couch told Kiwanians it is "still up in the air" whether the arena will be operated by the county or private sector, but they are leaning towards hiring a private sector to operate the facility because ding so "requires a level of expertise."
    County leaders are consulting with a facility  management company that has offered ideas for the arena's preliminary designs and will help oversee constriction as well as offer a business plan, he said.
    The facility will have around "70,000 square feet of enclosed arena with limited climate control... an indoor pavilion for concessions and rest rooms ... " and will be cooled partially with huge fans. There will be stadium, bleacher and non-fixed seating, and 195 animal stalls with room to assemble more temporary stalls if needed, he said.
    There will be two outdoor competition fields as well as a warm-up arena, and in addition to 415 parking spaces for passenger vehicles, there will be 70 spaces for trailers or RVs, complete with water and sewer hookups. A shower facility will be nearby as well, along with an outdoor pavilion for vendor booths and outdoor maintenance and storage facilities.
    It will draw people from all over who have expressed a desire for an equestrian facility in this area of the state, as well as others who will be interested in non-equestrian events that will be held in the arena, Couch said.
    "We want to make it a venue for people to come," he told the club. "A preponderance of events will be equestrian events, because that's where the money is."
    Couch said he has received calls from people outside of the area already interested in the facility. "This arena has a tremendous amount of potential," he said. "There are people knocking at our door who are hungry for this type of facility in this part of the state."
    Another major benefit to the community is that the arena could generate up to 200 jobs in the area - not just at the arena, but in the hospitality business as well as in other areas where visitors spend money in the county, he said.
    Couch said county leaders are being cautious and taking time to plan the project. "At this point, we're moving on with our design," he said. "It's a great big project that can mean a lot  to this community, and I'd rather stake my reputation on doing it right."
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