Students and youth participating in programs like 4H and Future Farmers of America will have to move their agriculture events to new digs as the Hays County Civic Center will shut its doors by the end of this month.
The civic center, which is a large enclosed arena with meeting rooms, was built in the 1970s and has served as the show barn and agriculture facility for the county. Hays County officials decided earlier this year to close the facility and save the $177,000 a year it takes to maintain it.
The land it sits east of Interstate 35 near the south side of San Marcos, in an area poised for industrial development.
“It makes sense to sell it and help fund a more appropriate location,” said County Judge Bert Cobb.
Hays County officials have helped the budding farmers and ranchers by negotiating an arrangement with Dripping Springs Ranch Park for the county and certain nonprofits to hold events there rent-free for the next 12 years in exchange for $1.8 million toward construction costs.
The park features a covered arena, an indoor event room, veterinary area and a large concessions area with full kitchen. It began hosting events such as rodeos and craft shows in September.
While some of the county’s 400 4H participants are nervous about the change, it’s a move to newer, bigger facility, said Laura Petty, Hays County extension agent who helps coordinate the 4H program.
“What we are going to get in Dripping Springs, it’s like moving into a brand new house,” Petty said.
The climate controlled areas of the new venue will come in handy during the Hays County Livestock Expo in January, the biggest event of the year for 4H participants. The new concession stand will also be put to use because that’s the biggest fundraiser of the year for the group.
“There are some people that are very nervous and some that are very excited about it,” Petty said. “I think once we get the first year under our belt, we’ll know what to expect.”
The 4H participants might not have an opportunity to get too comfortable in the new venue because county officials are hoping to build a permanent facility they can use for free or little cost. The Hays County Commissioners Court passed a resolution last week in support of locating a youth agricultural facility on the Texas State University Freeman Ranch complex, located between San Marcos and Wimberley.
The site was recommended by an advisory board. The board has formally approached the university to discuss the possibility, but negotiations are in the very early stages.