Henry County Memorial Park, located in the center of Henry County, has been an icon since 1920. It is the largest Memorial Park is Indiana. The park offers a variety of events and activity space to the community and travelers passing through. The park has always appealed to both young and old.
In early 2017 a series of community meetings were held, facilitated by Hope Initiative, to seek community input about our great park. The focus of the meetings centered around two key questions: “What is great about our park?” and “What would make a park even better?” These meetings brought awareness to the fact that an upgraded 4-H facility was critically needed. Originally built in the 1940’s, the open pole-barn style facilities have become outdates and unsafe. Soil bore sample results identified the location in which the current facility resides as not suitable for new construction.
The planning process for a new 4-H facility quickly determined that the needs of the park and of the community far surpassed that of just a fairground facility. Therefore, the plan for the Expo center was developed focusing on the importance of investing in the future of our youth, supporting the needs of a larger community, and targeting economic growth for our county.
Architectural drawings depict two buildings, one 55,000 square feet, the other 22,000 square feet; they are connected by a full kitchen. The larger building, a steel pole barn with lots of amenities, awaits a formal name; it will house everything now conducted in the five old barns. When not hosting they yearly 4-H Fair, it can accommodate a myriad of activities: Traveling ball, pickle ball, wrestling clinics, large animal shows, indoor automobile shows, auto auctions, wedding fairs, art shows, concerts, gymnastics, be an indoor practice site for tennis and volleyball. The banquet hall complex can accommodate conferences, proms, larger weddings, and family reunions, seating 500 at round tables, 700 in theater seating.
The project grew as more people gave input to creating the centerpiece for the Park becoming a destination site; the EDC Director has referred to this project as the “economic game-changer for the county.” The Indiana Department of Tourism has encouraged us to market this project mightily. Ball State University labeled it as the number one project in the region’s Stellar Communities 19 effort; our region was a finalist in that effort. Secondly, the cost grew because of “ slow downs”- slow downs cost time and money.
With Commissioner approval, the Board moved away from the design build model that had slowed the entire process, managed by committee. In early March, 2020, Authentic Builders was hired to build a new shelter to replace the Phillips Shelter that came down to allow the Center to be build; that same contractor was green-lighted just September 18, 2020, by the approval of the final permit required to build. The State and County permit process took six and a half months, losing good construction time.
Along with the five-acre tract that will be home to the EXPO center, the EXPO Board’s lease with the county encompasses an additional fifty-five acres: think trails, camp sites, shelters and an ADA playground. Overnight cabins?
The old barns will be taken down when the EXPO project is complete, returning the area to green space.
The Community Support:
In spring of 2018, a third party consultant conducted a feasibility study. Several members of the New Castle and Henry County communities were interviewed. Corporations and organizations are already showing support of this project by committing to holding their events at the Expo Center in later 2019 and into 2020.
The Expo Center will not only provide an undated all-inclusive 4-H facility; it will be a venue capable of supporting a multitude of events simultaneously:
- Large scale event space, banquet/reception area, along with training and classroom style learning environments.
- State-of-the-art audio/visual capabilities in all meeting spaces.
The economic impact this facility will bring to New Castle and Henry County communities is more than promising.
The vision of this facility is to foster community collaboration, with organizations offering critical programs supporting the needs and activities our community deserves and expects. A focus has been placed on the importance of educational outreach, health and wellness teaching, and recreational/event space opportunities. In addition to supporting our community, the Expo Center will bring large scale event appealing to patrons far beyond Henry County.
The Facility Features:
This $4 million facility will be a two connected-building complex, featuring trade show major event flexible space. 77,000+ total square feet, 58,000+ rentable
Multipurpose Expo Building – 55,000 square feet
- Athletic event/tournament space
- Trade shows
- Community events
- Job Fairs/Health Fairs
- Livestock shows
Banquet Hall – 11,200 square feet
- Seating for 500 people at tables, 700 in theater style
- Company meetings/Conferences
- Indoor/Outdoor wedding and receptions
- Dance floor/platform/stage area
- Full service kitchen
Training/Classroom Center – 1,600+ square feet
Who benefits from this project? People enjoying the park, its trees, trails, ponds, lakes, and monuments and people doing business in the park, participating in the horse show, visiting Veterans’ Museum, coming to concerts, booking weddings, reserving for proms, conferences, seminars, renting for trade shows or indoor car shows or traveling ball
Who is partnering on this project? The County Commissioners contributed $1.216 million to kick off the EXPO project and leased 60 acres of land to the EXPO Board for 25 years for $1, architectural drawings were donated, the Henry County Community Foundation matched $300,000 given by citizens contributing donations on larger than $10,000 each.
What is the estimated cost of this project? $6,600,000 ($6.2 million EXPO, $500,000 Veterans’ Museum/Smith Building, $200,000 Saddle Club)