Report: Travis County Expo Center could be replaced by 15,000-seat arena

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The Travis County Exposition Center facilities in far East Austin could be set for a complete overhaul.

The venue, which is operated by Travis County, hosts the annual Star of Texas Fair & Rodeo, which includes Rodeo Austin.

A city of Austin memorandum on Wednesday included recommendations from a July market study of the expo center. The report concluded a 15,000-seat modern arena should be built to replace the expo center. In April 2016, city staff cited a probable $620 million price tag for the reconstruction.

Also among the recommended projects are the following:

  • Increase the approximately 200,000-square-foot Expo Hall space by an additional 200,000 square feet that can be configured for horse events.
  • Construct a new 30,000-square-foot divisible ballroom adjacent to the Expo Hall.
  • Construct 25,000 square feet of divisible breakout meeting room space adjacent to the Expo Hall.
  • Construct one covered, nonenclosed dressage arena, 150-by-300 feet, and two covered, nonenclosed equestrian performance/practice arenas, 125-by-250 feet.
  • Provide space for the rodeo’s midway function of approximately 400,000 square feet, displacing approximately 1,100 parking spaces.
  • Increase parking to support the arena as well as for horse trailers, trucks and RVs; paved or gravel car parking for a minimum of 6,000 cars is recommended as well as for at least 300 truck/trailer combinations, which can range from 30-60 feet each.

Walter E. Long Metropolitan Park

The city is close to hiring a consultant to lead the Walter E. Long Metropolitan Park Master Plan, which was last updated in 1968. The 3,695-acre park was proposed in 2014 to be the site of a new professional-quality golf course.

The master planning process is expected to begin in May if the consultant is hired as expected this month. The expo center is in the southwest corner of Walter E. Long Metropolitan Park.

“The master plan will be used as the vision and roadmap for the future of the park and will include a recreational market analysis and development of a business plan that provides direction for financing the construction and long-term operation of the park improvements in according with the park master plan,” Kimberly McNeeley, the acting director of the parks and recreation department, said in the memo.

After data collection and consultant analysis, the city would initiate public meetings from September to December and bring the master plan to Austin City Council for adoption in summer 2018.

Along with the master plan, the city’s economic development department is set to study whether a portion of the park could be used for nonrecreational development. In 2014, a parks and recreation department official said the city had received interest in developing a nearby hotel. As part of the upcoming work, the consultant will analyze the market and determine the legal feasibility of noncreational land use in the area.

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JJ Velasquez
The Central Austin editor since 2016, JJ covers city government and other topics of community interest—when he's not editing the work of his prolific writers. He began his tenure at Community Impact Newspaper as the reporter for its San Marcos | Buda | Kyle edition covering local government and public education. The Laredo, Texas native is also a web developer whose mission is to make the internet a friendly place for finding objective and engaging news content.
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