The finish line for groundbreaking on the new location of the Alachua County Fairgrounds is in sight and according to Gina Peebles, Alachua county assistant county manager for community and administrative services, the project is on track.
With 90 percent of the $25 million budgeted for the project approved, the remaining ten percent of funds are an open opportunity for local and regional business interests to play a role in the completion.
“Our original goal to break ground before December 31, 2017, looks good,” stated Peebles.
“The new site will be home to a very large open, flexible space of 86,000 square feet,” reports Peebles. Perhaps the most significant feature of the building will be its indoor track.
“Since the renovation of the O’Connell Center, we no longer have an indoor track facility in the entire state of Florida,” said Joleen Cacciatore, Director of the Gainesville Sports Commission. “Today, the closest is in Birmingham, Alabama.”
For the past nine years the Gainesville Sports Commission has worked with the University of Florida and been able to utilize the O’Connell Center to host multiple events such as the annual Jimmy Carnes Indoor Track and Field meet which draws athletes from all over the southeast. Since the refurbishment of the O’Connell Center earlier this year, the indoor track was no longer in the plans.
The Gainesville Sports Commission is a nonprofit organization focused on attracting, creating, and managing sporting events for the Gainesville and Alachua County with the goal of enhancing the area’s quality of life and ultimately creating economic and social benefits for the community.
“We are very excited for the opportunity to work with the county on the creation, design, and building of a state-of-the-art multipurpose complex,” said Cacciatore.
The director added, “Access to a large indoor sports arena allows us to bid on many larger regional as well as national events which would only help the Gainesville community as a whole.”
Other key aspects of the relocation project also appear to be well underway.
According to Peebles, a special events marketing coordinator has been hired and started at the end of July, a construction manager has also been hired, and the contract with AJAX Building Corporation is slated for board review on August 8.
Ajax Building Corporation has offices located throughout the Southeast including a local office here in Gainesville. According to their website, the company is known for “projects for universities and colleges, K-12 school districts, city and county governments, as well as hospitals and the restoration of historic structures”.
Peebles also added the county is now working to select architect and engineering services.
The current fairgrounds, located on NE 39th Avenue, are scheduled for transfer to Weyerhaeuser in exchange for the new location just three miles northeast between NE 63rd Avenue and NE 69th Avenue. According to Peebles, that is currently being scheduled and planned for some time at the end of September.
Weyerhaeuser Company is one of the world’s largest private owners of timberlands as well as one of the largest manufacturers of wood products.
Peebles stated that the goal for the fairgrounds is to have 50 of 52 weekends booked so there will always be something happening at the Alachua County Fairgrounds.
In addition to the indoor track, the facility will also have multiple multipurpose meeting and conference rooms. Sponsorship and possible naming opportunities continue to exist for local businesses and organizations wishing to sponsor any portion of the building project.
The project’s completion is also on course, per Peebles, with a completion target 18 months from groundbreaking.
By Kathryn Pizzurro