Veterans United Home Loans and United Parcel Service will renew three-year leases with the Central Missouri Events Center after the Boone County Commission accepted their proposals at its Tuesday meeting.
The proposal by Veterans United will allow the Boone County Fair to use the property if its board decides to move the fair back from Sturgeon. Sturgeon has hosted the fair for the past three summers after the fairgrounds closed in 2015.
In October, Boone County issued its request for proposals to use the property. JC Events LLC, UPS and Veterans United responded, according to previous Missourian reporting. The county was initially looking for a long-term lessee of the 189-acre property for up to 50 years.
An independent committee reviewed the three proposals for the fairgrounds and made recommendations to the Boone County Commission.
Southern District Commissioner Fred Parry said the commission is “going back to the drawing board.”
“We need a more viable business plan for the long-term future of the fairgrounds,” Parry said. “While we appreciate the interest of the parties that we’re looking at it, we think that this property has a lot more potential for recreation and for public benefit.”
The events center, formerly known as the Boone County Fairgrounds, is leased now by Veterans United and UPS. Both businesses will finish out their leases by the end of this year then renew them for another three years.
Since 2016, Veterans United has used the coliseum, and UPS stages its vehicles in a large parking lot. Under their renewal, the businesses will continue to use the property in the same way.
“Veterans United and UPS have generously agreed to maintain and upkeep the property,” Parry said. “They have spent over $300,000 on maintenance upkeep of county property, which is something that’s a real benefit to county taxpayers.”
The commission intended for the new lease of the property to allow public use and bring the Boone County Fair back. The events center property had hosted the fair since 1992 before the move to Sturgeon.
With its proposal, Veterans United is offering the Boone County Fair free use of the property, with only a damage deposit.
Parry said if the Boone County Fair decides to use the property, the grandstands and livestock barns need repair but, overall, it’s an “ideal location.”
“It’s our hope that the Boone County Fair will now decide to come back to Columbia,” Parry said.
Boone County purchased the property in 1999 for $2.4 million. In summer 2014, Boone County voters rejected a temporary one-eighth cent sales tax to help rehabilitate the fairgrounds. The commission shut down the property the following January.
Parry said that while the fairgrounds has great potential, it was a “mistake” for the commission to purchase the property in 1999 when the county didn’t have a solid business plan or financial resources.
“Our hope is that we can buy a little more time and maybe revisit some of the ideas that have been proposed over the years,” Parry said. “I think that the decision that we made today was we need a more viable business plan for the long-term future of the fairgrounds.”
A new plan may take a few years to formulate, Parry said.
Supervising editor is Elizabeth Brixey.