A feasibility study of the proposed expo center, recently requested by the Canton City Council, was presented last Thursday night during a special called meeting of the council and Canton Economic Development Corporation board.

Chad Burke, project manager with the Texas Engineering Extension Service, presented the findings of the study based on the proposed dimensions of the 2,000 seat indoor arena with 320 stalls.

Burke’s research showed that Canton can conservatively be expected to see between 82,000 and 138,000 people utilize the proposed facility annually.

If the arena brings in an estimated 82,047 attendees, it can expect to generate an economic impact in excess of $20 million per year. If the proposed facility brings in 138,520 people, Burke’s study shows the local impact could bring in around $34 million annually.

He pointed out this is assuming a mature facility with at least three years of operating experience.

“It (expo centers) almost exclusively brings people from outside your city inside,” Burke said.

He projected 80 to 85 percent of the people using the facility would be from out of town, lasting “typically three to four days.”

The needs, Burke said, is for it to be multi-purpose.

“You need to be able to use it for more than just equestrian events…You need to broaden the scope of what you can put in there so that you’re always tapping new markets and bringing new people into your town,” Burke said. “…No matter what you do, it needs to have a strategic plan and a strategic marketing plan with it. It needs to be managed and marketed.”

Burke said during their study they spoke to 14 different facilities and they talked to them about the number events they host, the number of people they bring in, the number of stalls they have available, and seating capacity.

The average attendance is 180,000 people per year. These facilities, he noted, are not just used for equestrian events. Burke said some have exposition centers, meeting centers, pavilions and warm-up arenas.

The average amount of stalls is 400 and 4,000 seating capacity is average.

“For any of these facilities around the state and around the country really, they do not make money. They are not going to break even every year,” Burke said. “If they are good, they may make 60 percent of their operating budget every year.

The positive economic impact it will bring to a city as a whole far outweighs the deficit that the budget might run.”

“As soon as you say go the hotel industry follows very closely behind these things,” he continued.

“Does $20 million warrant spending $5 million. Is that a good return? What would be the low end?” city manager Andy McCuistion asked Burke.

“If you only get in 80,000 people per year and you only get in $20 million impact or even lower than that…or you only get about $15 million and you spend about $5 million for the facility. The key to that equation is that you are getting that money annually,” Burke said. “These people are coming into your community every year. Year two you have $30 million. It keeps that new dollar coming into your community…Most of them, the deficit is subsidized by the hotel/motel tax that they generate.”

“I would like for us to make sure, that if we are going to build this thing, that we build it large enough,” mayor Rusty Wilson told the council and CEDC board following the report. “…I really think we should look at a minimum of 3,000 seats if we are going to make it work.”

Wilson also said they should consider building a meeting room in the facility that can be utilized by the community.

“I will also tell you that the infrastructure that we have in Canton is all driven by First Monday, at this point and time for the most part, and if we don’t do something to offset that piece of it and do something in addition to it, we are going to find ourselves behind the eight ball before long.

“We have got to be forward enough thinking to take a look at things for the future, such as the expo center, that will bring additional infrastructure into our community.” Wilson said.

In other business the council:

-heard from a citizen who was concerned about water in the city. When asked if there were plans to get more water, Wilson said the city is planning to do a preliminary study following approval from the North Texas Water District to find additional surface water, well water and retaining discharge water.

-approved the adoption of Ordinance 2008-02 calling the May 10 city of Canton general election to elect three council members and designate the polling places and times for early voting and election day.

Early voting will be at city hall April 28 — May 2 from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Then May 5 and May 6, it will be from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.

The polling places for election day is at the junior high library and at city hall.

-approved a joint election agreement with Canton Independent School District for May 10, general election.

They are holding different elections, but will have the election in the same room. City secretary Julie Seymore explained that the agreement stipulates that if the school cancels their election they can charge the city $150.

-held the first public hearing on voluntary annexation of 16-acre tract located in D. Towns Survey, A-845, known as CYRA Ballpark, owned by the city of Canton.

The second public hearing will be at 6:30 p.m. and the vote will be at the March meeting.

-held the first public hearing on voluntary annexation of 1.299-acre tract situated in the J. Douthit survey, A-198, located on Highway 19 south owned by J.W. and M.J. Burnett Living Trust.

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