Calhoun County is trying to get into the party planning business.
And it’s looking to a car salesman turned race car driver to do so.
The county is eyeing about 200 acres Ben Keating owns behind his car dealerships near the corner of U.S. 87 and SH 35 in Port Lavaca for an event center. Keating said Tuesday he’s been trying to sell the land for years because it is more than he needs.
“I am incredibly excited at the prospect that we might have a nice event center right there surrounding the dealership,” he said. “I think it can only help my businesses by having more people coming to that corner of the world.”
County Judge Richard Meyer said he envisions the event center hosting “conventions, graduations, indoor rodeos, car shows, boat shows and a multitude of other activities” and being “a great economic boost for the county.”
During their June 10 meeting, commissioners gave Meyer permission to negotiate with Keating.
Meyer said he has room in the county’s general budget plus an additional $1,135,000 from Formosa.
He said earlier this year, Formosa’s 2012 tax abatement with the county was amended so Formosa could provide that amount to the county to use at its discretion. The original agreement called for Formosa to build a rodeo arena for the county, but they couldn’t settle on where to build it.
Keating said the land the county is interested in is currently leased for farming. He did not remember the initial listing price nor say what he’s asking of the county now.
“I’m excited about what the county is planning to do with it, and so I have done some things to help support the county and their efforts to pull it off,” he said.
Right now, people can rent the Bauer Community Center from the city of Port Lavaca for events in county.
Although the center was built in the 1990s, the city recently spent almost a million dollars to repair and renovate it after Hurricane Harvey. It has the capacity for 900 people.
“It’s the largest venue that we have in Port Lavaca right now, so it does stay booked,” said Cathy Buehring, an administrative assistant with the Port Lavaca Chamber of Commerce.