Construction to start at agriculture center

Arena scheduled to open in time for 2003 fair


August 01, 2002|By Mary Gail Hare | Mary Gail Hare,SUN STAFF

Shortly after the annual Carroll County 4-H Fair ends tomorrow, ramshackle barns will be razed and construction will begin on a long-awaited $4.3 million arena that will bring more agricultural, recreational and educational activities to the Ag Center in Westminster.

Expected to be open in time for the 106th fair next year, the building on Smith Avenue will include a 52,500-square-foot arena and will house air-conditioned offices, kitchens, bathrooms and showers.

Within two weeks, contractors will start tearing down several aging barns, which are maintenance problems. Once demolition and grading are complete, construction can begin, probably in early October, with MSG Associates of Columbia leading the work.

The Danele Shipley Memorial Arena, named in honor of a late Carroll County teacher known for her dedication to 4-H, will occupy about 1.5 acres adjacent to Burns Hall - where the farmers' market is held. The structure will include the arena and two air-conditioned wings that will bring the total interior space to 60,658 square feet.

"The arena is essentially an open rectangle that we can use for just about anything," said Lawrence Meeks, Ag Board president.

In addition to the weeklong fair, the center is the site of summer and holiday farmers' markets, educational, cultural and recreational events. The center offers classes in farm technology, chemical licensing and nutrient management.

"The center is a link between the research at the University of Maryland and us farmers in the dirt," Meeks said. "Adult education is important to us. There are also myriad activities that support the ag community throughout the county. Agribusiness is big business in Carroll County."

Room to expand

Meeks has answered inquiries about a dog show, a sheep show and a model train extravaganza.

"There are lots of shows that want to expand for larger audiences, but the facility we had would not permit that," he said. "We have a list of different events that are interested in using the new space. Now that we have started to build, we can work on the rental schedules and fees."

The arena project has been five years in planning and fund raising. The state has pledged $1 million. The community has raised $1 million, including a $200,000 donation from Daniel and Eleanor Shipley, parents of Danele Shipley, a speech teacher in the county at the time of her death in 1995. The county has authorized a loan of up to $2.5 million to complete the work.

"We are all looking forward to finally getting started," Meeks said. "We are improving the facility here for all the people who use it. It will be a better, more modern place for the whole community to enjoy."

Year-round use

Accommodations for livestock also will be revamped. Instead of pole barns with no heat or walls, animals will occupy well-ventilated areas with fans to cool them and heat to encourage year-round use.

About a dozen 14-foot-high overhead doors will provide trucks and heavy equipment easy access to the arena from all sides of the building and help with ventilation.

"This gives us a place to continue the fair and a place to expand the functions we hold here," said Caroline Babylon, Ag Board member.

Construction will not disrupt routine activities at the center or affect programs in the Burns building, Meeks said.

Proceeds from rentals will help defray construction and maintenance costs. While rental fees will generate dollars for the center, Meeks stressed, "We are not here to make money. We are here to serve the needs of the community."

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