Clark County to develop old armory near fairgrounds

Credit: DaytonDailyNews

Clark Co. purchases old armory building

Credit: DaytonDailyNews

Clark County commissioners have purchased the old National Guard Armory next to the Clark County Fairgrounds — a move they say could boost tourism and sales tax revenue.

The armory, near Interstate 70 and Ohio 41, was purchased by the county from the state for $125,000, Clark County Commissioner Melanie Flax Wilt said. The county plans to find the right developer for the property, she said.

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“That’s probably the most highly visible property that we have in the county there,” she said.

It’s difficult to calculate exactly how many visitors travel to the area or how much revenue is generated by the fairgrounds because events are hosted by several different organizations, said Chris Schutte, destination marketing and communications vice-president for the Chamber of Greater Springfield.

But it’s safe to say the fairgrounds and Champion Center are one of the county’s biggest tourist attractions, Schutte said, accounting for about half of the out of town visitors.

“It drives tens of millions of dollars minimally into the local economy,” he said.

And events at the fairgrounds bring in a lot of sales tax revenue for the county, too, Flax Wilt said.

“It’s great for us to be able to expand that and think about different options for developing and modernizing our fairgrounds,” she said, “so that it can be the best economic development tool for the community.”

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First the county plans to demolish the old military building on the 4.6-acre property, Flax Wilt said. Then it will begin the process to find a developer. Several options could be considered, she said, including a hotel, restaurant or convention center.

“It’s going to be a benefit for our community regardless of whether it’s quickly developed or how it’s developed,” she said.

A hotel would be a good fit for the property, Clark County Fairgrounds Executive Director Dean Blair said.

“We have a need, a real need in this infrastructure area to have a hotel,” he said.

The occupancy rate for local hotels has grown by 12 percent, Schutte said. Special events bring in big crowds, he said, plus even when there isn’t an event, a hotel at that location would draw visitors from passing by on the interstate.

But any development on the property will have a positive impact on the community, Blair said.

“As that infrastructure begins to come, it will be like dominoes,” he said. “And I believe that if a hotel goes there, then maybe a restaurant will go in across the overpass, or vice versa.”

Blair has added new events to the fairgrounds this summer, including an international powerboat race that will be Aug. 25 to 27 and an inaugural 5K race to benefit the local Salvation Army on the cross country course July 26. The new events could bring even more people to the county, he said.

By the numbers

$125,000: Purchase price for the old National Guard Armory by the Clark County Fairgrounds

4.6: Acre property purchased by the Clark County commissioners

12 percent: Growth in occupancy rate for hotels in Clark County

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