Study on complex complete


The potential for a large multipurpose facility in Loudon County remained uncertain this week, as Loudon County Commission heard a presentation from the feasibility study committee, along with the two agencies who conducted research on the project.

Curtis Catron, with Bullock Smith & Partners in Knoxville, told commission on Monday that the best facility for the county's needs would be a 35-acre site that would include a 150-by-250 foot ring, covered and outdoor agricultural areas, parking spaces for 1,500 vehicles and seating for 3,500 people. The committee considered housing a complex on two sites in the city of Loudon, but both locations provided only about 25 acres apiece.

The complex that was presented to commission would cost between $29 million to $35 million in construction costs.

Bill Owens, with Herndon, Va.-based Owens Economics, provided commission with the economic outlook for a potential site.

"A final program was selected because it maximized the opportunities for revenue generation, and it maximized the opportunities for economic impact, both two important economic considerations in advancing the project forward," Owens said, noting that the community had strong to moderate support for rodeos, 4-H events, sporting attractions and high school graduations, with limited support for musical concerts.

Owens said that based on research, the county could reach a market of more than 1 million people within a one-hour driving radius of Loudon.

"We looked at the market size and demographic characteristics, not only for Loudon County, but as part of our work we studied probably 16 or 17 other facilities in different markets," Owens said. "One of the things we did was compare the demographics and the population of those facilities with the population and demographics for a site or a location here in Loudon County."

He said that based on forecasts, the complex could support 293 events in three years after opening, which would amount to 193,000 visitors per year.

Owens said that generally, multipurpose complexes have long-standing operating deficits that are made up for in tax revenues, noting that once the complex reached a "stabilized year," the facility would be operating at $82,200 in the red. Those losses would be made up in an estimated $134,000 in tax revenues.

"It will never go away entirely," Owens said about the deficit. "Because there will be a limit to the number of events that you can stage based on capacity and based on the fact that the weekends are the prime times for all the events."

Commissioner Steve Harrelson asked the companies if they had considered other potential locations for the facility.

"It didn't sound like either site you all mentioned was big enough for the original acreage," Harrelson said. "Are y'all looking at other sites?"

Catron said they were just charged with creating a design for a complex. The feasibility study committee was in charge of selecting a site. The study cost about $30,000, with $20,000 coming from a U.S. Department of Agriculture grant. The county paid $6,000, while the city of Loudon chipped in the remaining $4,000.

David Brashears, who headed up the complex feasibility study, said funding for the project's construction could come from private or public sources.

"Truly there's some innovative private and public financing and even potentially state because as Bill said, a lot of these facilities around here are all state built," Brashears said. "This could become a reality. If you keep this rather than taking this report and sitting it on the shelf, you could see this become a reality, but it will take some work to push this."

Commissioners did not discuss the complex further, and it was unclear whether the county will pursue the plan.

The board also discussed some reappointments to the sanitation committee after failing to approve the appointments of committee chairman Steve Field and Ted Wampler Jr. at the last regular meeting. Commissioner Don Miller previously made a motion to approve the appointments, but when no one seconded, the motion failed.

Mayor Estelle Herron asked commission about the indecision, noting that the board did not discuss the appointments during a previous workshop.

"Y'all didn't discuss it in this meeting," Herron said. "You wait until you get down there, so I want to know what the problem is with them because right now at the end of this month if something isn't done, and Steve Field isn't reappointed, then we've got no chair. We've got documentation sitting right down there in my office right now that's probably not going to get to be signed because we didn't make these two appointments."

During the last board meeting, Lenoir City resident Pat Hunter said she was concerned about a solid waste committee member who allegedly owed some back taxes. Hunter said at this week's meeting that the member to whom she was referring was Robert Harrison, a city of Loudon appointee who is not up for reappointment.

Harrelson said that after hearing that, commissioners hesitated.

"When this thing was brought up during the public discussion time, somebody said are you going to approve people that aren't paying their taxes?" Harrelson said. "Well, I'm thinking one of these two are not paying their taxes."

"Would you think that Ted Wampler ..." Herron interjected.

"No," Harrelson said, noting that the accusation caused commissioners to pause. He told Herron to put the item on the next agenda, and he would second a motion to approve Field and Wampler.
In other business, the board:

* Heard from Planning and Codes Director Russ Newman about new stormwater regulations from the state that the county would need to adopt at its next monthly meeting. Among other provisions, the regulations will require new sites to contain the first one inch of rainwater before it is released off site and will require pre-construction meetings with the developer or contractor.

* Miller recommended that the board designate April 20 as Public Library Day in the county. The day coincides with Public Library of Tellico Village's official opening ceremony.