Wythe County expo center to highlight area’s largest industry

virginia logoWythe County’s new 90,000-square-foot Appalachian Regional Exposition Center is expected to generate over $3 million for the area by its fifth year in operation.

According to economic impact studies from Virginia Tech and the University of Virginia’s Weldon Cooper Center for Public Service, the 90-acre complex is expected to highlight the area’s largest industry—farming. It will serve as a multipurpose development that can host a variety of agricultural, entertainment and community events, including rodeos, livestock shows, sporting events, concerts and trade shows.

“We wanted a self-sustaining venue that would promote a wide array of events and generate tourism dollars and provide a venue to house and showcase farm events,” remarked Matthew Miller, a Wythe County Farm Bureau board member who serves on the seven-member APEX Center board. “We want to showcase agriculture in Southwest Virginia and also house regional and East Coast events that will bring in people from outside the region.”

The APEX Center is in the perfect location, as up to 75,000 vehicles pass it each day. Located at the junction of Interstates 81 and 77, “it’s at the crossroads of the Mid-Atlantic,” Miller explained. In the summer, he said, vehicles parked in the county have predominantly New York, Ohio and Pennsylvania plates.

The economic impact studies said the exposition center will be within a day’s drive of half the American population and serve as the region’s premier entertainment venue.

“The benefits are not just from the physical complex,” Miller shared. “It will generate money for the local economy. Most events we’re looking at would require overnight stays, and that would contribute to meals and lodging taxes.”

The project stemmed from the 2006 sale of a site owned by the Southwest Horseman’s Association. The group dedicated the sale proceeds toward establishing an indoor arena to hold horse shows and competitions. Shortly after that, Wythe County Farm Bureau members worked with the equine group to create a 501(c)(3) organization called the Appalachian Agricultural Exposition Center. Its goal was to build a multipurpose facility that could host a variety of agricultural events.

The nonprofit group eventually partnered with Wythe County government and began working on a multi-purpose development. Construction started in November 2017, and a year later the site includes an exposition center with a covered arena and seating for up to 5,000 people. Multiple events are scheduled for this year, including a monster truck show, rodeo and motocross competition, Miller said.

“We hope to have 50 events the first year and increase that to 80 by the third year,” he said. “Once ancillary buildings are built, livestock shows and other agriculture events will be included.” Wythe County Farm Bureau recently donated $50,000 toward the construction of a barn to be used for livestock events.

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