The head of the Kentucky Fair & Exposition Center (KFEC) is confident that funding for the expansion of the facility, the site of the RV industry’s National Trade show for many years, will be approved despite the fact Kentucky state officials are at a budget impasse.
Harold Workman, president and CEO of the Kentucky State Fair Board, which has responsibility over the KFEC in Louisville, said he is confident the expansion will be approved because the project “will pay dividends” in the form of money the RV trade show brings into the Louisville and Kentucky economies.
Last year’s Louisville show brought 11,000 people to the city and they spent around $30 million, according to Mary “Mike” Hutya, vice president of meetings and shows for the Recreation Vehicle Industry Association (RVIA), sponsors of the trade show.
Kentucky’s fiscal year begins July 1, but its General Assembly was unable to pass a budget during its regular session last winter and during a special session in late April.
Nothing happened since then because there was a primary election in Kentucky last Tuesday (May 28). Now, it is generally believed a special session will convene around June 17.
As was the case with most states, Kentucky collected less tax revenue last year due to the recession, so its law makers need to make up for the shortfall by reducing the size of the next budget.
The funding for expanding the KFEC was not included in the budgets previously considered by the General Assembly and political observers in Kentucky generally believe there is a 50-50 chance it will be included in the budget for the July 1, 2002, through June 30, 2004, period.
The expansion and renovation of the KFEC is estimated to cost $102 million, Workman said.
If the funding is approved in June, then the Fair Board could seek competitive bids for expanding the South Wing of the KFEC as early as July, Workman said.
The current plan calls for building a 165,000-square-foot addition on to the South Wing plus 57,000 square feet of additional conference center space. If the project is bid in July, then construction could begin in September with completion occurring during the spring of 2004, Workman said.
Then, after the RVIA show in 2004, the East Wing would be demolished and the new facility built in its place would be completed during the summer of 2006, he said.
If the expansion/renovation of the KFEC is delayed, Hutya said the RVIA Board might decide to look to other cities as the location of the national trade show, with Atlanta and Orlando being the leading candidates.
The national trade shows has, basically, outgrown the current configuration of the KFEC, so the RVIA might decide that a move to a different city with a larger convention center would be appropriate, Hutya said.