New Statesboro arena expected to boost economy

STATESBORO, GA (WTOC) - A multi-million dollar outdoor arena in Bulloch County could draw more than just horses and riders.

It could be another attraction that helps bring events and tourists to town.

Dirt piles and equipment surround what will be Bulloch County's newest attraction. The Center for Agriculture will include two covered arenas for events like rodeos or horse shows, as well as a barn with space to hold hundreds of show animals. Mike Rollins says it's getting popular even before it opens this summer.

"We've already been in touch with a number of organizations who want to use the facility, so it's starting to get real," said Rollins, Recreation Department Director.

Besides housing local events, Rollins thinks it will become a venue that draws out of town shows that attract tourists. Local tourism leaders say those visits count in several ways.

"Just because they may not stay in a hotel doesn't mean they're not spending money. They're eating in restaurants, they're buying gas," said Barry Turner, Statesboro Convention & Visitor's Bureau.

He says the center will give them another spark plug to fuel the community's $140 million tourism motor.

"They may be coming to an event at the Ag arena, but they also find out about Splash in the Boro or the Wildlife Center at Georgia Southern," Turner said.

Rollins says construction may only take a year or so, but selling the idea to leaders and voters in a sales tax took almost two decades.

"It has taken a long time to get it from the drawing board into the dirt as you see now," Rollins said.

If it becomes the attraction they hope, it will be money and time well spent.

One of the biggest and busiest ag centers in Georgia sits in Perry. They're already talking with people there to share potential users about what will be available here. Apparently, there's no shortage of traveling shows - from tractor pulls to equipment shows - looking for venues.

We'll see how quickly this becomes a destination and a draw.

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