News BARN STORMIN’: Fayette County Hopes Complex Brings Economic Development

BARN STORMIN’: Fayette County Hopes Complex Brings Economic Development

BARN STORMIN’: Fayette County Hopes Complex Brings Economic Development
February 25, 2007 |

When Sammy Hindman talks about his baby, he sounds like a proud papa. He talks about how big it is, all its endearing features, how everyone who sees it simply gushes.”Well, whaddaya think?” he asks a first-time visitor. “Is it all that I said it was?”All that and more.For Hindman’s “baby” is actually the Fayette County Multipurpose Complex, a facility built partly with a donation from the Alabama Farmers Federation to give agriculture a boost and one now seen by many as the ticket to economic survival for this northwestern Alabama county.”You don’t come through Fayette on the way to anywhere,” said Hindman, one of 12 board members appointed by the Fayette County Commission to oversee the facility. “We wanted to give people a reason to come to Fayette, and we hope we’ve got one.”Well, there are at least 55,000 reasons. That’s how many square feet there are in the main building, an enormous 175-foot by 300-foot white metal structure that juts 50 feet into the air from a field behind the Super Wal-Mart store just off Highway 43 running through Fayette.Inside, there’s a 160-foot-by-300-foot arena, bleacher-style seating for 1,500, a commercial-grade concessionaire and restrooms with showers. Around back, there’s a 150-foot-by-150-foot livestock barn with 96 stalls, and a large outdoor arena with lighting and sound system connected to the main building.Nearby, there’s another 150-by-150-foot building that serves as the county’s farmers market and also holds the county Extension offices. There are also 48 hookups for recreational vehicles and parking for 1,200 cars. It all sits on a sprawling 45-acre tract of some of the best land in Fayette County.Long before it was finished (and it’s still considered a “work in progress”), the arena was open for business, hosting rodeos, tractor pulls, 4-H and AQHA-sanctioned horse shows, and even the county fair.”As soon as they paid their money at the fair and they were in the building, their mouths would fall open,” said Hindman, a member of the Alabama Farmers Federation’s State Beef Committee. “They’d sit down and say, ‘I can’t believe we’ve got something like this in Fayette!'”Yet, for all the accolades, for all the oohs and all the aahs that the $2 million complex evokes from those who see it, it was hardly an overnight miracle. In fact, it’s only by accident that the multipurpose complex even exists.”It took as long to build this as it did Rome,” laughed Hindman as the story of this facility began to unfold.According to County Administrator John Gordon, things began falling into place 14 years ago when a local manufacturing company wanted to buy some adjoining property that was home to a county livestock barn built in the 1950s. Since the barn had fallen into disrepair, the county agreed to sell the land.”But when the commission sold the property, they found there was a clause in the deed that stated as long as the county existed there would be property dedicated for the exhibition of livestock in Fayette County,” said Gordon. “That’s when they found out the property could not be sold or given away or any disbursement of that property without the dedication of some other property to take its place.”As a result, the commission bought a 45-acre tract, and built its first building, the 150-by-150-foot livestock pavilion. While it met the legal requirements of being able to show livestock, the building wasn’t suitable for much else.An attempt to hold a rodeo there revealed plenty of shortcomings with the building, but it drew such a large crowd that the commission decided to look beyond the obvious.”It was serving the purpose, but we have another dream now,” Gordon said of the first building. “We decided we needed to do something for the good folks of Fayette County. We spend $300,000 a year housing inmates, folks that break the law and everything else — we need to do something for the good folks. We needed something where we could have different types of events. So, we came up with this dream.”And bit by bit, they also came up with the money — some from the county here, some from a federal grant there. There were private donations, too — Alfa’s donation help toward the construction of the horse stalls. Piece by piece, the dream came together. … $250,000 for the Extension service offices … $800,000 in raw structures … $150,000 in gravel for the parking lot … $78,000 for the stalls … $40,000 for the RV hookups … $50,000 in architect fees … and on and on.”It wasn’t like, ‘We’ve got $2 million. We’re going to go out here and buy a 45-acre tract of land, and we’re going to do all this stuff. Now give me a bid for it.’ It’s not that kind of project. It’s a do-as-you-can. The reason it took so long was we were living within our means. We were doing this as we could accumulate funds. It was all piecemeal.””If we had held a meeting and said, ‘We want to do a bond issue for $2 million to build a Fayette County Multipurpose Complex,’ we wouldn’t have this,” said Hindman. “It never would’ve happened.”But Fayette is beginning to awaken to the possibilities. Hindman says the Walmart store just a stone’s throw away from the complex had a $47,000 increase in sales during one weekend event. “One of the restaurant owners told me that at two of the major horse shows he actually closed his doors around 5:30 or 6 p.m. because he didn’t have anything left to sell,” said Hindman.”There’s no doubt this thing here has the most potential for the greatest economic impact on Fayette County and surrounding areas of any one thing that has been done in the West Alabama area in the last 30 or 40 years,” said Gordon.There’s still work to be done as the facility begins its second year of operation with a full slate of events scheduled — more horse shows, barrel racing, 4-H events, tractor pulls and the like.”We’d like to have our first revival here,” said Gordon. “We’d like to host gospel singings and some non-animal events like that.”

After all, as Sammy Hindman will tell you, this isn’t just a livestock barn. And it’s not just his baby.”When people ask us who owns this, we like to ask them where they live,” said Jeff Sullivan, another board member and president of the county cattlemen’s association. “If they say ‘Fayette County,’ we can say, ‘You own it’ because they do. This belongs to the people of Fayette County.”

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