Expo Center Talks Progress

In a joint study session, commissioners from Saline County and the City of Salina heard a proposal from GH2 Architects regarding the future of the EXPO Center.

Kala Ade, Project Manager for GH2 Architects, proposed:

  • The City pay $1.7 million to demolish “Barn 2” on the Expo Center site and the City would complete an expansion of Greeley Avenue, going toward the Tony Pizza Events Center.
  • The County pay $6.3 million to demolish Kenwood Hall and “Barns 3, 4, 5 and 6”. The County would then build a new building that includes a covered warm-up area, as well as flexible space that can be converted into horse stalls or livestock pins.
  • The area that Kenwood Hall now occupies would become parking and would facilitate larger vehicles brining animals to the new barn. The parking lot west of the events center would be used jointly.  The space currently occupied by Tri-Rivers Arena could be used for parking or for the carnival; a tennis association has requested that this space be turned into tennis courts.  Some events may require the use of parking shuttles.
  • Ventilation in Ag Hall would be improved and some windows would be replaced. The plan did not include improvements to the kitchens, concession areas or restrooms in Ag Hall.  Small improvements are proposed for Barn 1.

County Commissioner Rodger Sparks raised the question of whether the proposed spaces would be big enough to hold the 4-H animals, the horses that come for a two-day horse show, and the rodeo stock at fair time.

Much discussion centered on the fate of Tri-Rivers Stadium, which the City owns.  Tri-Rivers Fair currently sponsors two days of rodeo and a demolition derby.  Previous City Manager Jason Gage talked about making the Fair Board whole, at an approximate cost of $4,000/year, if the events were not held.  In discussing the possibility of using the events center for the rodeo, it was unclear how the rodeo stock could satisfactorily be moved from the main barn to the events center.  Tri-Rivers Fair Board, as well as the two staffs were asked to consider options for relocating the rodeos and derby off of the Expo property.

GH2 Architect’s plan contains no City or County dollars to renovate Tri-Rivers Stadium.  City Commissioner Joe Hay said the City is unlikely to fund improvements for the stadium and asked if the County would be willing to do so.

In 2018, the Expo Center had events scheduled on 342 days.  According to County Chairman Robert Vidricksen, the Expo Center brought in $85,000 in revenues in past years, but cost the County $250,000 each year to operate.  Vidricksen said the County maintains the EXPO Center as a service to the public.

County Commissioner Monte Shadwick said State statutes prevent the County from bonding for its share of the $6.3 million in improvements; County Counselor Mike Montoya said options are limited because the County does not own the land, the City does.

The discussion turned to the possible length of the lease the City might extend the County, as the current lease has expired, but the EXPO Center currently is operating on a yearly lease extension.  City Manager Mike Schrage said the City just renovated the events center and it is hard to tell what improvements that might need in 50 years.

Schrage said he would task City staff to look at alternatives involving Tri-Rivers Stadium and parking.  City Commissioner Melissa Rose Hodges asked what will be the most valued use of the land.  City Mayor Trent Davis said, “Everyone has plans, not everyone has money”.