Arena proposed in Loudon

Vicky Newman News-Herald

In a few years, Loudon County could have a new covered arena facility for special events -  everything from 4-H shows, horse shows, rodeos and bull ridings, to concerts, monster truck shows and hundreds of other activities and events. And, if the details can be worked out, it will be located on a 4-acre plot in Loudon Municipal Park, not far from the Tate & Lyle Ampitheatre.

The Loudon City Council workshop meeting was visited Monday by Donna Eason-Pile, University of Tennessee Extension assistant development director, who presented a proposal for the board to consider. Loudon County has no arena for holding 4-H events, such as livestock shows, she said.

 "We've been working on this project since September, but we have been wanting something like this for 20 years," said Eason-Pile. "We have traveled all over Tennessee and the Southeast looking at facilities. The problem is that anytime we have an event, weather is a deciding factor. We need something under cover. John Goddard said this is the first county where he has served as Extension agent with no livestock facility. So we put together an advisory board to get input from county folks."

In researching similar facilities, Eason-Pile said most report being fully booked and self supporting.
Loudon City Park would be an ideal location for the arena, because of its proximity to the Interstate, Eason-Pile said.

The facility which more closely mirrors what organizers envisioned, is located in the small community of Rainesville, Ala. That facility, the Northeast Alabama Agribusiness Center, also is located just off the Interstate.

"There are a lot of similarities between Loudon and Rainesville," Eason-Pile said, explaining that the group wants to move forward with developing a similar center concept, and begin marketing it to  community stakeholders. The NE Alabama Agribusiness Center is "user friendly" and has a building facade that makes it more aesthetically appealing, she added.

The funding of the center would not fall to the city of Loudon, she said. Rather, Loudon would be asked to allow location in the park. Fundraising would be pursued by the group, and when the facility is completed, it would be gifted back to the city.

Mark Harrell, Loudon parks and recreation director, said the facility fits well in the city's master plan for parks development.

The proposed arena would be developed to offer rental horse stalls for events, and possibly recreational vehicle camp sites as well. "The more services you offer the more money can be made," Eason-Pile said.

Regional shows could bring in substantial funding, according to Eason-Pile. The arena would lease for $1,250 per day, and as many as 200 stalls would rent for $30 each, RV campsites, for $50 a night.

Mayor Judy Keller said she would like to see a more definitive proposal for the board to consider, but supports the concept.

"Mark (Harrell) told me about this several months ago, and I thought it was great opportunity," she said. "It is something we definitely need to take advantage of."