Advisory Board Looks Into Ways to Fund Fairgrounds

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BOONE COUNTY - The Central Missouri Events Center has cost Boone County more than $750,000 in the past two years, but county residents said they don't want to give up on the home of the Boone County Fairgrounds.

Boone County subsidizes the Central Missouri Events Center, where livestock shows, equestrian competitions and church services frequently take place, as well as the yearly county fair.

The events center is more than 20 years old, and while some repairs were made under the current management of TAG LLC, many residents said they thought the fairgrounds needed a makeover.

A task force heard feedback from county residents last fall. Task force member David Thomas said more than 95 percent of residents were in favor of Boone County's continued ownership of the events center.

"There's no doubt that the Central Missouri Events Center is good for the community. The real question is how to best utilize all the potential this space has."

Located on 134 acres, the event center has a main arena, a secondary arena, four horse barns and additional covered structures. The city of Columbia also has three ball fields on the adjacent 80 acres.

According to County Commissioner Janet Thompson, the future for the events center could be bright.

"Currently, there is collaboration with Columbia's Parks and Recreation department, the University of Missouri, Moberly Area Community College, Columbia College and Linn State Technical College," said Thompson.

Future plans could include trails for pedestrians and equestrians, more sports fields, a bigger main arena, new horse stalls and even a playground for handicapped children.

According to a task force report, county residents want a recreational space that has a positive economic and educational impact.

The report also advocated a three-pronged approach to funding the center:
· Public dollars
· Private/Corporate Donations
· Facility-Generated Income

"The most important thing about these plans is that they are not one commissioners vision, or even three or four people's pet project, these ideas come from the community," said Thompson.

Thompson said an advisory board will guide commissioners as they decide future plans and funding for the Central Missouri Events Center.