Partnership produces one single project for exhibition grounds

What the entrance could look like to proposed agricultural centre - File photo
What the entrance could look like to proposed agricultural centre
— image credit: File photo

The draft Comox Valley Exhibition Grounds master plan recommends development of a single Agricultural Trade and Awareness Centre.

The master plan update that was commissioned last year was recently presented to the Comox Valley Regional District board which supports the concept.

However, there are two organizations, the Comox Valley Exhibition Society and the Comox Valley Farmers Institute, who have approached the CVRD with proposals to build two separate facilities –an Agriculture Awareness Centre and Agriplex respectively on the exhibition grounds.

And because the board prefers to focus on just one project to enhance the chances of landing government grants down the road, both groups decided to work together.

Mike Trimble of CVES and Ben Vanderhorst of the CVFI made a joint presentation to the CVRD committee of a plan to establish a broad-based activity centre for the whole community.

The development of the project will be undertaken in stages. The location of the proposed centre will be build above the flood-plain area adjacent to the curling rink.

The first stage is to complete the Agriculture Awareness Centre which is estimated will cost around $2.4 million. It's going to be around 12,000 square feet in size. Its goal is to provide non-profit groups a venue for shows and other functions like weddings and meetings.

The second stage will be to build the Agriplex Main Hall & Pavilions with a projected cost of $4.6 million. The 56,000 square feet facility will be geared towards creating a flexible venue that will be able to stage large events that include trade shows, horse shows, sports events, concerts and conventions.

The third stage will be completion of further enhancements and features. The total cost of the whole project is estimated to be around $11 million.

The board was pleased with the new unified plan. Electoral Area C director Edwin Grieve said the concept now can certainly be a "win-win."

Trimble agreed. The new plan, he said, aims to provide two facilities that can cater to smaller and larger events.

"We're very excited with the partnership," said Trimble. "It comes together with the facilities joined the way they are."

Courtenay director Larry Jangula congratulated both groups for finding a way to work together on this project.

"That says a lot for our community and both your organizations," said Jangula. "The other message that has come out is that this will provide a venue for events that normally could not come here that are too big."

Vanderhorst said the next step they will be making is to come up with a concept design for a single project and also to pin down the costs, which currently are just estimates. They also plan to have an updated joint business plan, to identify community partners and users and have consultations with them, discussions with equestrian and dog groups, define a phase development plan and to seek all the required approvals.

"We need to make sure the building accommodates as many potential user groups as there are in the valley and all their thoughts are considered," said Vanderhorst.

Once the facility is complete, the CVRD will own it but it will be run by a managing board. Both groups indicated they have no problems with that concept.

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