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WAAY 31 got a look on Tuesday at a $45 million agricultural center in the Shoals.
The center will hold a large arena for concerts, hotels, RV lots for camping and retail stores. The 170-acre site is on Highway 72 at Florence Boulevard.
On Tuesday, the Agricultural Authority, which is overseeing the construction of the Lauderdale County Agricultural Center, unveiled a new website and a feasibility study. According to the 13-page study, construction of the agricultural center has an estimated economic impact of $89 million and could create 544 jobs.
"It was about three or four times more positive than we expected," said Sen. Tim Melson.
Melson sits on the board of the Agricultural Authority. He said the study is very accurate.
"They went through so many numbers talking about employees that will be hired from the actual on-site and off-site and the whole benefit of the project," said Melson.
According to the 13-page feasibility study, the project will bring in $15 million in new economic output and support 185 jobs. Melson said the next steps are now getting big chain hotels and retailers.
"We will start looking on the retail side for clients. We're finishing up the contract with the architect, and we will be putting out requests for proposals for everything from construction to engineering," said Melson.
Parts of the land are already being cleared. Shelly Pettus was at Tuesday's meeting and said this project could change the landscape of her community.
"I think it will help us as far as moving some industry this way, because with people talking with us that have industry, one of the things they look for is for a place for people who move into this area with their jobs to have a place for entertainment," said Pettus.
The center will be able to host things like concerts and rodeos. The Agricultural Authority rolled out a website where neighbors can make comments and see all of the documents associated with the project.
"You can get your comments in to the board members and ask questions, because I think there is some misunderstanding on what the event center will be," said Pettus.
Melson said they are also looking at possibly widening this portion of Highway 72 from four to six lanes in the future to go with the project. The Agricultural Authority secured a $37 million bond for the project, and the rest of it will be paid for by an extension of a two cent a gallon gas tax.
The project is expected to be done by October 2021. A date for an official groundbreaking ceremony has not been set yet.
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