Ground was broken Wednesday on a planned expansion of the Bell County Expo Center that officials say could bring bigger events to Central Texas to meet the entertainment and economic demands of a booming population.

The Expo's new equestrian and livestock facility will be located on the west side of the Expo campus near the existing horse barn and exposition building. An indoor, air-conditioned performance surface of 150' X 300' is planned, along with seating for 1,000 spectators. There'll also be a bar and grill, a vendor concourse with an unrestricted view of the arena, a warm-up arena, and stalls and pens.

The addition was designed to attract and accommodate larger events and provide more space for area youth fairs. Expo officials say it will also free up the dome, allowing for multiple big events to be held at one time.

At a pre-ground breaking luncheon emceed by Bell County Judge Jon H. Burrows, recently retired Texas State Senator Troy Fraser detailed the efforts of his staff to help pass House Bill 4037, which featured an amendment authorizing certain counties to impose a hotel occupancy tax. Once Bell was added to the list of eligible counties, it was decided that the extra revenue would go to expanding the Expo.

"The heavy lifting on this came from the judge, the commissioners, the other people who endorsed this, and the community as a whole," Fraser said. "Y'all marched the ball all the way down to the 1-yard line, and my only job was just to push it over the goal line."

"This is a huge, huge deal for this community," he continued. "The fact that we're sitting at the intersection of two interstates, there's a lot more demand than there is supply for the product we're trying to deliver. This is going to be a big, big deal for not only Bell County, but for Central Texas as a whole."

District 55 representative Hugh Shine, who represented Temple at the original Expo groundbreaking 30 years ago, thanked Fraser and praised the leadership of the Central Texas community.

"We have a winning team in Bell County," Shine said. "That's why we have a great quality of life."

The architetural firm of Hahnfeld Hoffer & Stanford designed the new facility, and it will be constructed by MW Builders.

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