County purchases large area of land from local business owner for event center
With feet firmly planted on the land and an eye toward the future, the Calhoun County Commissioners completed a land purchase deal last Wednesday.
The county purchased nearly 200 acres of undeveloped land bordered by U.S. Highway 87, State Highway 35 and FM 3084, from BKCK LTD, also known as the Keating property, for $1,259,156.91.
The idea behind the purchase is to build a multi-purpose building to serve the entire county and draw in conventions, boat shows, and such, said Calhoun County Judge Richard Meyer.
Commissioners approved the judge to pursue the deal following an executive session during the Sept. 18 meeting.
“I think this is an excellent idea and something the area has needed for a long time,” said Precinct 4 Commissioner Gary Reese. “It should bring more tourism to the area and also more money as people will be spending money in Calhoun County. Stuff like this can take some time doing, but once it’s done, I think it will be a real boon to Calhoun County.”
The land has excellent drainage on all sides, as well as being fronted by the Port Lavaca Auto Group dealership and Calhoun High School. It is served by three highways so ingress and egress are from three different directions and can already handle traffic going to and leaving. It is a large enough parcel for expansion if needed.
“You have to have land before you can do anything,” said Commissioner Vern Lyssy. “We’re planning for the future, and with the land secure, somewhere down the line, we can have an event center for the whole community to share into.”
ANATOMY OF A DEAL
Meyer said he personally became involved in 2012 when Formosa donated $1 million, which was part of the tax abatement agreement with the county for an indoor rodeo arena.
“That’s when I first got in touch with Ben Keating when he was in his office above the Ford dealership, and we kept in touch,” said Meyer. “I had no idea I would be Judge when we met - Keating, his attorney and myself – on Feb. 14, 2019, and got the ball rolling and the deal done by the end of the year.”
Formosa played a role in the deal getting done by allowing the county to use the money set aside for an arena as discretionary funds instead of for a specific building, explained Meyer.
“And with the help of Ben Keatings’ generous offer, we were able to purchase the site,” said Meyer.
Keating donated half the land to the county because he considers Port Lavaca to be his home as he purchased what would be the first of 19 dealerships.
The county, Meyer said, only paid slightly over $250,000 for the parcel of land.
“This couldn’t have been a more suitable piece of land for the county to purchase,” said Meyer.
“I think we did an awesome job, and this will make Calhoun County grow,” said Precinct 3 Commissioner Clyde Syma.
“The airport manager is excited, and with their expansion plans, this will work well together and benefit the county and city tremendously,” said Meyer.
First things first – the University of Houston in Victoria will be hired to conduct an economic feasibility study, “so we know what it can bring in and produce,” said Meyer. The study will help the county when it starts seeking grants to help pay for the buildings.
The current plan is a multi-purpose event center that can accommodate the Calhoun County Fair and Livestock Show, boat shows, and concerts. Meyer noted that the water, beaches, and seafood are a big draw for tourists, and this could be a tremendous boost economically.
Precinct 1 Commissioner David Hall said eventually this is going to be good for the community and for the long-term growth of the area.
“This is something we’ve needed for a long time, and some of us go way back in trying to find the right place,” said Meyer. “This is not going to be thrown up tomorrow. We want to have a long thought process on this and get to fit and to work together. We are all excited and looking forward to it. It will be tremendous for the people.”