$800,000 still sought by Ag Center board $2.1 million project will bring exhibit hall to city of Westminster

'Guardedly optimistic'

Facility expected to be biggest of kind between Baltimore and York

October 19, 1997|By James M. Coram | James M. Coram,SUN STAFF

Work on a new exhibition and trade show building at the Carroll County Agricultural Center -- expected to become the largest such facility in the region -- could begin as soon as this winter.

The Ag Center's board of directors is "guardedly optimistic" that work on the project will begin this winter, President Lawrence E. Meeks said.

A winter start "is dependent upon some type of fund raising that will make us better able to deal with bills on a regular basis," he said.

The center is about $800,000 short of the $2.1 million needed to fund the project. But "the board and a lot of people are feeling optimistic about [the remaining] fund raising," Meeks said, adding that Bob Jones, coordinator of the fund-raising committee, "can't be given enough credit."

The committee has raised about $1.3 million from all sources -- cash, pledges and in-kind contributions, Meeks said.

Center supporters plan to talk with members of Carroll's General Assembly delegation to get another $300,000 in matching funds from the state, Meeks said. They asked for $600,000 last session, and received $300,000.

Since a fund-raising campaign was launched in the spring, plans for the multipurpose building have grown by 4,000 square feet, to 41,250 square feet.

The building, covering nearly an acre, will be the largest trade show facility between Baltimore and York, Pa., according to county officials, and should help the county attract market and trade shows that have been out if its reach because of limited space.

The Ag Center is a cluster of barns, livestock pavilions and show rings on 13 acres off Center Street in Westminster. The center is the site of the Carroll County 4-H Fair, a popular summer event that has remained true to its agricultural roots.

Meanwhile, the County Commissioners waived a $3,750 grading application fee that will be counted as an in-kind contribution for matching funds, Meeks said.

In late summer, the center's board of directors moved the site of the proposed building 100 yards to another site on the 13-acre agricultural center property. The new site "will cost less to deal with," and will be closer to parking, Meeks said.

As originally plotted, the site would have required "some nice trees to be taken out that now will be saved," said David L. Greene, director of the Carroll County Extension Service. The original site would have required a lot of excavating, which the new site will not, he said.

"There was some concern on the design committee that there might not be enough room for the types of shows proposed to be used at the center," Meeks said.

"Some felt that it would not be large enough, given the number of livestock at the present fair," he said.

The revised design, complete except for some internal electrical and plumbing considerations, will be presented Oct. 30 to the county's subdivision advisory committee, one of the first steps in the county's development review process.

The new building will not only house the county fair, but various large-scale events such as boat and equipment shows, dog shows, and cattle shows and sales.

From the start, the intention has been to make the building as flexible as possible, said Greene, an ex-officio member of the nonprofit center's board of directors.

Because roughly 45 percent of the pledges for the building are for periods of two to five years, the building may have to be built in phases -- the shell first, followed by the upstairs kitchen and conference area, Greene said.

The building probably will not be ready for next year's county fair, but that shouldn't be a problem, Greene said, given the center's location and its capacity for fairs in the past.

Construction of the center was initially expected to begin last summer after the centennial 4-H Fair.

"There is no definite date for completion," Meeks said, "but I am hopeful we can raise [the remainder of] the money" needed to complete the project in a timely manner.

"The enthusiasm [for the project] has not waned at all," he said. "The Ag Center is a family-oriented community group that wants to have a positive impact on the youth in the county.

"We want to expand our present programs and generate economic impact for the county with shows of public interest. We hope to have a very positive impact on this community."

Pub Date: 10/19/97

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