A new multi-event center and fairgrounds proposed to be built on Ewing Mesa could end up costing more than $80 million to build when all is said and done, according to an estimate by a design company hired by La Plata County.
On Tuesday, La Plata County Commissioners and staff reviewed the master plan for the project, which has been in the works the past few years.
In 2015, Durango philanthropist Marc Katz purchased 1,850 acres on Ewing Mesa, a flat, undeveloped area above Durango accessed from Colorado Highway 3.
Katz said he would donate 200 acres for a new multi-events center and fairgrounds. The donation was a relief for many organizers who use the current fairgrounds on north Main Avenue and have said for years they have outgrown the space.
This past year, particularly, La Plata County and other planners associated with the project began a robust public outreach, holding several presentations and open houses as the project progressed.
After hearing public feedback from a diverse range of interests, a “preferred plan” was presented in August, which showed indoor and outdoor arenas, an exhibit hall, as well as administration and meeting rooms.
The master plan also calls for a gathering space, livestock barns, a show arena, a community barn for events and ample room for parking, among other amenities in the conceptual design.
On Tuesday, representatives with Durango-based DHM Design said a cost estimate showed the project, after four phases of buildout, could add up to more than $80 million.
The first phase, by far, would cost the most to complete, mostly because of costly site improvements that could amount to more than $35 million. The total cost for this phase is estimated at more than $44 million.
The costs for developing the master plan have been covered entirely by revenue from the Colorado Lottery. Now that it is complete, the county and other involved entities must search for grants and partnerships for funding, County Manager Joanne Spina said.
While most in attendance Tuesday were impressed with the vision for the project, the actual cost of construction concerned some.
At the meeting, Katz said the project falls in line with the vision he had when he purchased the land two years ago. The price tag, however, was a bit of a shock.
“It’s a beautiful facility if we ever come up with the money,” Katz said.
“Clearly, this is going to have an economic benefit for the whole county and all the people here, and all the tourism-related businesses and so on.”
La Plata County Commissioner Gwen Lachelt called the multi-events center one of the most exciting projects in the county in a long time. Commissioner Brad Blake one-upped Lachelt, calling it “the most exciting thing” to happen to the region.
“The numbers look pretty big, but if we think outside the box, we can figure out how to do it,” Blake said.