COLUMBIA, Mo. (KMIZ)
The city of Columbia could take over ownership of the Central Missouri Events Center, formerly known as the Boone County Fairgrounds, under an agreement unveiled Thursday at a joint news conference.
City and county leaders gathered at City Hall to announce the transfer of ownership of 135.9 acres to the city, according to a news release.
No cash will be exchanged in the deal, officials said. The county plans to convey the land to the city in a deed.
The city plans to convert the property into a recreation complex.
Columbia Mayor Brian Treece said there is already a desire for sports in the area.
"We already know sports and regional sports destinations like this are in high demand. I mean, our sports fields now are very competitive," Treece said.
He said the ideal location of the fairgrounds could help bring sporting events from around mid-Missouri.
"Events that would have otherwise gone to Overland Park, or St. Louis, or the Chesterfield Bottoms," he said.
"I think not only Columbia parents are going to thank us when these sports fields are developed, but we're going to be able to compete much better with Missouri State High School Athletic Association, Show-Me State Games," he said.
The release said the park "could fulfill existing needs," including six turf sports fields, a track and field area, four baseball/softball diamonds, two picnic shelters, an inclusive playground and a 29-acre agriculture park "that could become the permanent home of the annual Boone County Fair."
Treece said these types of events have already been an economic driver in the area.
"We know sports tournaments are 10 million dollar economic boom for Columbia. I mean these are athletes, they don't just come and play for an hour and leave, they come on Friday night. They play all day Saturday. If they win they stay on Sunday," Treece said. "Their parents are coming here and staying in our hotels, and eating at our restaurants and putting entire teams up."
In addition, the Bear Creek Trail will connect Albert Oakland Park to the fairgrounds. The Hinkson Creek Trail will connect Stephens Park to the fairgrounds.
The city will take over two parts of the MKT Trail from the county.
Treece said a study from 2014 by Invictus identified a need for the types of amenities the city and county are proposing.
Boone County will keep a separate 53.6-acre tract that fronts northbound Highway 63 across the road from the fairgrounds, the release said.
Boone County Commissioner Fred Parry said the county plans to develop those 53.6 acres into something that will complement the recreation complex.
The city and county have an agreement the land will eventually be annexed into the city limits.
Parry also said the city and county have set aside land where they hope to host the Boone County Fair.
"We have 29 acres that have been set aside in this master plan. Currently, the Boone County Fair is being held on 21 acres, and so our hope is that this will help bring the Boone County Fair back to Columbia," he said.
The county has owned the fairgrounds property since 1999 and closed it in 2015 after voters rejected a tax for its upkeep.
Parry said he was happy to see the county and city reach an agreement.
"It's awesome. I think that I got involved with this thing back in 1999 when the county first bought it and I had been fairly critical of the county and the way that they handled it," he said. "But now that I am a county commissioner and part of the problem I have additional insight that this was something that the county was very wise to landbank this property 20 years ago."
Parry anticipates in 2021 residents will be able to vote on an extension of the current park sales tax.
The city will gather public input on what people would like to see at the complex before finalizing plans.
The Columbia City Council and Boone County Commission must approve the deal.