A group of about 200 people including city and county officials, interested citizens and other community leaders gathered Tuesday night in the Thompson Center Ballrooms at Tarletan State University to discuss the pros and cons of creating an event center that would house 500 or more people.
Presiding over the event was John Hubbard, executive director of the Stephenville Economic Development Authority, and addressing the audience were Stephenville Mayor Kenny Weldon, Chamber of Commerce President/CEO, July Danley, Interim City Administrator Wayne McKethan, SISD Director Matt Underwood and TSU’s Dr. Kyle McGregor.
Speaking about the need for the meeting and the motivation of those in attendance Weldon said, “Why are we here tonight? We care. I think that’s really important for us as a group to remember. We care about our community in a special way, and what a special community it is.”
He went on to emphasize that a dedicated events center would not be just a place for the community to gather.
“This is also very much about economic development,” he said.
As Weldon pointed out, attracting events such as conferences would bring in visitors who not only would directly spend money here, but it would also create tax dollars that could be used to address other community needs.
“Equally important, an event center would allow visitors to take a good look at the city of Stephenville and Erath County and think about relocating their families and businesses here,” he said.
Speaking about the need for meetings such as the one Tuesday night, Hubbard said, “We really need to make an informed decision, positive or negative, to build or not build. It’s important that we know all the facts. So that’s the charge that we have; that’s why we’re here.”
Hubbard pointed to several key issues that a core group of business and civic leaders are looking at in regards to the event center possibility and listed:
• Facilities for ongoing community use that would be provided by such a center
• Tourism uses
• Corporate sponsorships
• Revenue sources [both tax and direct spending at retail, lodging and other businesses]
• Land locations for such an events center
• Management and maintenance challenges
David Baskett, president of the local Citizens National Bank branch, is one of nine members on the Events Center Core Committee and in an earlier interview with the E-T said the purpose of the summit was to hear thoughts from members of the community.
"We need to hear what other people think of this," Baskett said. "Is there a need for a multi-purpose facility, and if so, what would it look like?"
Baskett said he supports the idea for one simple reason: The economy.
"I believe to grow the community, economy and workforce, we need more to offer," he said. "When corporations look to come to Erath County they ask what there is to do here. They want to know if there is a place to meet and hold events, and right now there isn't."
Others on the committee include Danley, McKethan, Hubbard, Ilda Martinez, Underwood, McGregor, Scot Jackson and Jeremy Allen.
Asked if there will be follow-up meetings of this nature, McKethan said, “We will allow some time for the Events Center Core Committee to hear input from the community and I would think we’ll convene another such meeting within the next 30 days or so.”