Appalachian Regional Exposition Center becoming reality

AFP Correspondent

WYTHE COUNTY, Va (Dec. 22, 2015) — This rural Virginia county where less than 30,000 residents consider their home a crossroads for the nation is about to realize a dream 10 years in the making.
Leaders expect ground to be broken in 2016 for the Appalachian Regional Exposition Center that they want to see up and running as soon as possible, Matthew Miller, county Extension agent said during a tour of the site Dec. 16.
Miller and Jeremy Farley, communications officer for the project, talked about the project that had its birth a decade ago when the Wytheville Horsemen’s Association sold its horse show grounds and made the money available to the county to develop an agricultural venue for the area.
“In 2015, this dream took a giant leap toward reality when the Virginia Tobacco Commission awarded Wythe County a $750,000 economic development grant to construct the Appalachian Regional Exposition Center,” Farley said in an overview of the project. This was recently announced to the public.
During the tour he said the effort is made stronger by it being the idea of the private sector rather than coming from the government.
He and Miller described it as a partnership of private and governmental efforts and said it has become a 501(C)(3) non-profit organization.
The Tobacco Commission grant has been complimented by Wythe County with a $3 million investment and private contributions made by local citizens, the Virginia Farm Bureau Federation and dozens of community organizations and businesses.
The project is expected to have a 200-by-300-foot arena, which will be used for a myriad of activities, including livestock shows, rodeos, indoor soccer events, travel shows, motocross, concerts and dozens of other regional and national events. The Appalachian Regional Exposition Center will also include outdoor multipurpose athletic fields, an outdoor horse ring, classroom and training facilities and office space.
It is expected to provide permanent seating for more than 3,000 people with room for an additional 2,000 portable chairs for concerts and other entertainment events.
The location is key to the expected success of the project and the idea that it will become a major destination on the East Coast, the two officials reported.
“The exposition center will be within feet of the intersections of Interstates 81 and 77 at Exit 77,” Farley said. “With the two interstates crisscrossing the heart of Southwest Virginia, each day more than 80,000 vehicles will pass by the facility, offering over 29 million yearly views of the center.”
He added the location is the center’s greatest selling point. He said it is located midway between Roanoke, and Bristol, Va-Tenn; Charleston, W.Va and Charlotte, N.C. and the Florida and Canadian borders.
“The exposition center will be within a day’s drive of half the American population and serve as the region’s premier entertainment venue,” he said.
The site, known locally as the Poole farm, is about 95 acres and has the advantage of being partially prepared for development about 10 years ago, according to Miller. That project was abandoned but left a site that has been leveled and has sewer and water available.
Clearing the site of brush that has grown on the developed area has already begun and leaders are working to move forward in the New Year. They are hopeful the new center will give the local economy a big boost.
Miller and Farley said the organization is soliciting sponsors for the center who will be able to advertise their support on signs along the property’s border with the interstates.
Farley said more people will view this advertising in a year than view Super Bowl commercials.