Clark County to buy old armory, possible site for new hotel

Land near Clark County Fairgrounds prime for development, Clark County commissioner says.

Clark County’s deal to purchase the Ohio National Guard Armory site for $125,000 site is expected to be finalized in the next two to three months — which could lead to new development near one of the county’s largest tourism generators.

Ohio Department of Administrative Services officials verbally approved the deal last year for the property at 4440 Laybourne Road. It then was formally approved as part of a bill during the lame duck session at the Statehouse last month.

The land is prime real estate and could be used to build a new hotel and restaurant near the fairgrounds, Clark County Commissioner Rick Lohnes said.

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“It’s right by the interstate,” he said. “(Love’s Travel Stop) is opening (soon). We’ve always wanted a motel with a restaurant.”

The county has saved about $325,000 for the project, Lohnes said, including $200,000 for demolition.

The 2.8-acre property listed at 4440 Laybourne Road is valued at more than $1 million, according to the Clark County Auditor’s website.

If sold to a developer, the county could also see a return on its investment, Lohnes said. It’s also possible the hotel could be right off of Ohio 41 closer to the fairgrounds, he said.

“The sooner we can get it torn down, the better,” Lohnes said.

The fairgrounds and Champions Center account for half of Clark County’s local event attendees, a majority of which visit from out of town and create significant economic impact, Chris Schutte of the Greater Springfield Convention and Visitor’s Bureau has said. The economic impact of tourism in Clark County was about $395 million last year, according to CVB reports.

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The county sold about 4.8 acres of the property in question to the state for $1 in 1950.

The property became available when the Ohio National Guard broke ground on two new buildings in May 2009 at the Springfield Air National Guard base. The $15 million project moved two Guard units and an Army Reserve unit to the base as part of the Base Realignment and Closure process. The move was seen then as a way to protect the base from future BRAC rounds.

A hotel and restaurant could provide lodging and food for the many people who attend annual events at the fairgrounds, such as the Antiques Extravaganza and the Cars and Parts car show, Clark County Fairgrounds Executive Director Dean Blair said.

“I see that being a wonderful catalyst for our events,” he said.

The Champions Center has been selling out its events every weekend, Blair said. While some competitors stay in campers at the events, he said many others stay at hotels that can be 10 to 20 miles away.

When it comes to to a possible hotel, Blair called it an “if you build it, they will come” scenario.

“They’re going to come because they’re already there,” Blair said. “I see that as a real plus for our community. Everybody wins. I totally support it and hope it happens sooner than later.”

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The purchase will allow the fairgrounds to have more flexibility when it comes to their long-term planning, Springfield Assistant City Manager and Economic Development Director Tom Franzen said. It could also allow them to host bigger events, he said.

“They’re making good investments out there,” he said. “If it’s good for the fairgrounds, it will be good for the community.”

The county’s purchase of the old armory is another chance to improve the nearby Interstate 70 interchange, which has seen lots of improvements in recent years, including the soon-to-open Love’s Travel Stop.

“This only enhances what’s already one of our greatest assets as a community,” Chamber of Greater Springfield President and Chief Executive Officer Mike McDorman said. “It’s one of the biggest opportunities we have to grow more assets along a major interstate corridor.”

The Love’s Travel Stop will allow trucks to park in one location, rather than along the interstate.

“It will help existing companies, as well as be a beacon for new prospects who could come into the park,” McDorman said.

By the Numbers

$125,000: Ohio National Guard armory purchase price

$200,000: Estimated demolition costs

5 acres: Approximate size of Ohio National Guard armory property

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