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Ag Expo Center gets more funding

By Staff | Jul 9, 2016

SIOUX CITY’S proposed Ag Expo and Learning Center facilities moved closer to reality on June 29 with another infusion of funds. Supporters are hopeful plans will be completed this year.

SIOUX CITY – The proposed new Sioux City-based Ag Expo and Learning Center continues to move closer to reality with a $1.5 million commitment from the Woodbury Board of Supervisors.

The new commitment adds to the previously announced $1 million grant from the Missouri River Historical Development Board, an arm of the local non-profit gaming and license holder for Sioux City’s Hard Rock Hotel and Casino.

The $1.5 million will be provided over a 10-year period in annual amounts of $150,000.

Supervisors, however, have yet to select the center’s funding source. It will either come from the county’s portion of gambling revenue, which is between $375,000 and $400,000 received from the Hard Rock Casino, or from tax increment financing.

Additionally, supervisors said funding is also contingent on a promised $250,000 payment from Western Iowa Tech Community College to be used for classroom space in the learning center within the project.

“We see it as a great opportunity for celebration and for others to learn about our rich agriculture history here in Siouxland.” —Gene Leman Former Tyson/IPB executive

The center will be located on the 12-acre site just east of Interstate 29 at the southern edge of Sioux City, where the former John Merrell pork plant stood in 2010.

It has since been demolished.

Preliminary plans for the center complex, which will be operated by a private management company, include a 3,000-seat arena, a warm-up arena, livestock pens and a Stockyards Hall of Fame.

The complex will be used for equestrian competitions and livestock shows, as well as ag-related events, possibly drawing upwards of 100,000 visitors annually.

There are also preliminary plans for an $8 million hotel adjacent to the center.

The new funding sources are expected to bolster Sioux City’s earlier application for $14 million in state tax breaks for the Ag Expo Center and two additional projects in Sioux City’s $72 million Reinvestment District.

The city had earlier pledged $2 million for the center.

Marty Dougherty, the director of Sioux City Economic Development, said center supporters are excited to have received the new funding.

“These latest (funding) steps will allow the project to proceed with the additional private fund raising for the project,” Dougherty said, adding a number of private commitments have already been made.

He added the process of finalizing funding through he Iowa Reinvestment District program can now begin.

Dougherty said that’s projected to provide an estimated $5.7 million to the center project over a 20-year period. That’s in addition to the requested state funding for a new Convention Center Hotel and the Virginia Square project, “which is the revitalization of three properties along a key entry off Interstate 29 into downtown Sioux City.”

“We believe the Ag Expo Center will contribute greatly to the quality of life in the region, draw new visitors, provide young people with educational opportunities in agriculture, and celebrate the culture and rich history of agriculture in our region,” he added. “If we gain final approval from the state and complete the fundraising construction could begin in the spring of 2017.”

Gene Leman heads the Ag Expo and Learning Center’s private fund drive board.

He has worked with supporters for seven years.

A former past executive of the Tyson/Iowa Beef Processors fresh meats group, Leman praised his co-sponsors and governmental entities in the Siouxland area for their role in keeping project efforts moving forward.

“It’s a tremendous project not only for Siouxland and the surrounding area, but for those in surrounding states as well,” Leman said. “We see it as a great opportunity for celebration and for others to learn about our rich agriculture history here in Siouxland. Our anticipated 150,000 to 200,000 visitors annually is significant, too, with regard to our economic growth.”

Leman said the value of WITCC’s participation in the learning center component is as a provider for aspiring veterinary assistants.

“When you look at livestock numbers in the Siouxland area and the current availability of veterinarians,” he said, “the need for assistants is immediately evident.”

“The academic aspect will open new doors for these individuals choosing to enroll in the courses to become available through the center and WITCC.”

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