By Jeff Helms
The Clanton City Council voted unanimously March 8 to transfer 500 acres to the Alabama Agriculture and Exhibition Center Cooperative District, clearing way for site preparation for the Alabama Farm Center at Alfa Centennial Park. The Chilton County Commission, which jointly owned the property with the city, approved the deed in February.
“This is going to be a real big deal for Clanton,” said Mayor Jeff Mims. Following applause from those in attendance he added, “…not only for Clanton and Chilton County, but also Thorsby, Jemison and Maplesville. I want to thank all those folks for contributing on this project and trying to make it happen. We look forward to many years together — making some good things happen.”
Plans for the Alabama Farm Center include a 5,000-seat arena, 100,000-square-foot exhibition building, 400-stall horse barn, 400 recreational vehicle hookups and other barns and arenas. The site of the multi-use event complex is located along I-65 at Exit 212.
Council Member Billy Singleton made the motion to approve the land transfer.
“I’m confident we can continue to work with our partners — the Chilton County Commission, the (Alabama) Farmers Federation and Alfa — to not only ensure the Alabama Farm Center is a success, but that this project will create economic opportunity and help to improve the quality of life for the residents of Clanton and Chilton County,” he said. “This a huge step to a more prosperous future for our children and grandchildren.”
The Federation’s Alabama Farmers Agriculture Foundation announced Chilton County as the winning site for Alfa Centennial Park in 2019. Since then, the Federation, along with the city of Clanton and Chilton County, worked to organize governance structures for the complex, secure permits and work with the builder and architect on construction plans. Transferring the land to the cooperative district clears way for groundbreaking later this year to coincide with the Federation’s 100th anniversary.
Federation Area Organization Director David Heflin serves as chairman of the cooperative district board of directors.
“On behalf of Alfa, we are happy to be in this position and can continue to move forward,” Heflin said. “We think this is going to have a great economic impact, not only on the city of Clanton and Chilton County but all of central Alabama.”
Chilton County Commission Chair Joseph Parnell said he looks forward to seeing the project and the community grow. He said permit approval from the Army Corps of Engineers is expected in May with groundbreaking by summer.
“This facility, upon completion, will be about a $250 million project,” he said. “This project is supposed to bring about 900,000 tourists a year into the little city of Clanton and Chilton County. That is a game changer.
“We all know our location is perfect,” he added. “There’s nowhere else that’s better suited for this. We’re halfway between Birmingham and Montgomery. We’re halfway between Mobile and Huntsville. We’re halfway between Jackson, Miss., and Atlanta. We are poised to grow. We’ve got leadership in the city — in all of our cities — and the county that wants to see our county capitalize on this opportunity to become a place where our children and grandchildren will want to live and where other people will want to come to settle with their families. We feel like we can build a project where we can retain who we are and still see the economic growth. The initial phase of this project will put about $250 million into our economy within about a three-year period.”
Overall, Alfa Centennial Park is expected to generate 2,200 jobs. The site also will be home to a Workforce Development Center with state-of-the-art classrooms and hands-on training facilities. The Chilton County Workforce Development Committee is working with Jefferson State Community College to identify employment gaps and design education programs to fill those needs.