Talks continue for redoing the Travis County Expo Center

The show barn at the Travis County Expo Center was buzzing with activity Friday. The annual youth livestock show and fair was underway.

Among those competing for a Blue Ribbon was Bella Kirk and her one-year-old steer, Biscuit.

"If you give it good time and a good effort you can make really good money off it,” said Kirk.

The Expo Center has also been a good money maker. It’s located on 128 acres along Decker Lane, close to the intersection of Hwy 290 and the SH 130 tollway.

The site offers a full view of downtown Austin, which is about 15 miles away.

Over the years some modifications have been made, but now, a total re-build is being proposed as more people and companies move here. "That location is not that far away anymore in today's Austin” said Sean Foley with an investment group called Austin Sports and Entertainment.

The plan, which is called the East Austin District, features a 15-thousand seat arena. It’s to be the new home for the Star of Texas Rodeo as well as a new concert venue.

Next to the arena is to be a 40,000 seat open air sports stadium.

Space for retail and tech business ventures is also part of the vision.

"One thing that we've learned through this process, is that its nearly unanimous that our community wants some redevelopment out there and thinks is long past due,” said Foley.

The Expo Center is owned by the City of Austin which leases the site to Travis County. That lease is winding down. Foley's group wants to negotiate a new land use deal and is also interested in buying 40 acres next to the center which is owned by Rodeo Austin.

As negotiations continue, organizers of events like this one are worried they will be left out of the mix and potentially squeezed out of this location. Karen Griffin with the Travis County Youth Show & Fair said they are already feeling the pinch.

"Yeah and you can very easily price us out. We have to do a whole lot in a very short amount of time because of the price of renting the facility,” said Griffin.

It’s hoped, some type of price break guarantee for volunteer and charity organizations will be included in any land deal. "This facility was built for the children of Travis County, for this type of event, so I think that’s only fair that they should have a say in," said Griffin.

The project proposal does state that 28,000 square feet for youth facilities.

Details for renting space have not yet been determined.

The project, according to Foley will be built with private financing. The cost has not been disclosed. If a deal is reached soon, Foley said ground breaking could happen sometime early next year with a 2021 opening date.

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