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.”
RELATED: Lake events at Clark County Fairgrounds could bring in millions
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
The Springfield News-Sun digs into important stories that affect jobs and the economy in Clark and Champaign counties, including recent coverage of unemployment rates and efforts to make the region a transportation research hub.