Multi-million dollar expansion of HOT Fairgrounds facilities proposed

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WACO, Texas (KWTX) McLennan County Commissioners Tuesday signed off on a multi-million dollar proposal to double the size of the Heart of Texas Fair complex, potentially at no cost to local taxpayers.

(Photo by John Carroll)

Revenue to pay for the expansion would come from a proposed 2 percent hotel-motel tax and a 5 percent rental car tax and from the new revenue the transformed complex is expected to generate, officials said.

If the Texas Comptroller’s Office determines the project wouldn’t significantly impact state revenue, McLennan County voters could decide in May whether to approve the hotel-motel and rental vehicle taxes.

The $42 million proposal is the product of a feasibility study by Populous, the Kansas City architecture firm that designed McLane Stadium on the Baylor campus, Fair and Rodeo President and CEO Wes Allison said Tuesday.

The proposal calls not only for the expansion of indoor facilities, but also the addition of athletic fields and the restructuring of streets around the fairgrounds to create a contained complex.

The $34.4 million base project proposal calls for an 80,000-square foot Expo Center Building with about 53,000-square feet of exhibit space that’s connected to the existing coliseum, which would cost about $14 million to build.

It also calls for two new barns, a covered warmup area, an arena barn, the addition of RV parking, a track with bleachers, two soccer fields, a challenger field, and nearly $4.4 million in street improvements, utilities, lighting, landscaping, and graphics.

Another $6.9 million would be spent on future phases.

The expansion would allow the complex to schedule about twice as many events during the year, increasing the number to about 160.

"The HOT Fair and Rodeo will be able to schedule about 83 more events with 78,0000 non-local attendees, giving us a good opportunity to battle Abilene and Amarillo for large who are increasing their facilities,” he said.

The county faces a Feb. 17 deadline to add the proposal to the May ballot.