Charlie Smith

Charlie Smith

FLORENCE — The architect charged with creating the final plans for the Lauderdale County Agricultural Event Center spent hours Monday discussing the smallest of details for the $45 million project.

Charlie Smith said Tuesday he plans to present final drawings to the Lauderdale County Agriculture Authority in about a month.

"This phase is called the detailed facilities programming phase," Smith said. "That's where all the spaces are written down and defined and materials are defined, so that before they even start drawing the buildings, we have a written description of the buildings that everyone agrees to."

The details include establishing standards for everything from recreation vehicle stalls to restrooms to seating arrangements and available parking spaces, Smith said.

"Since this is truly a mixed-use development, we've got to look at parking requirements not only for the agriculture event center, but also the retail complex and future training center," he said. "They have to work together."

The architect said preliminary plans call for a 9,200-seat facility that accommodates at least 2,200 people in the show ring for events such as rodeos.

Smith said it is important to make sure the plans allow for enough space to meet requirements for sanctioned rodeo events.

"We have to have a very large show ring to meet the rodeo standards," he said. "You need a certain length and width for barrel racers and all of those elements."

One of the key issues, Smith explained, is the seating capacities of the event center and the  exposition hall, "so that you might have two significant events going on at the same time." he said.

There are additional details to recall, such as recreational vehicle parking.

"I was explaining to them the RV area, which is where the horse trailers will go, isn't your standard RV with a car and small trailer," Smith said. "It'll be a truck with a 38-foot long horse trailer behind it. Also, you don't back into those, so you need pull-through spaces to make it easy for drivers to pull in and out easily."

The architect said the planning is nearing the point where civil engineers can begin plotting internal roadway layouts within the campus. This includes looking into safe and efficient access to U.S. 72.

Federal authorities recently approved a $14.9 million grant whose funds will be used to six-lane a section of U.S. 72 that narrows from six to four lanes in the area of the project.

Lauderadle County Commissioner Roger Garner, who is on the ag authority, said there has been some clearing on the property, but most of that involves access.

"I think you'll start seeing earth-moving projects shortly," Garner said. "These current steps might seem like monotonous things right now, but it's also exciting to see it get to this point."

bernie.delinski@timesdaily.com or 256-740-5739. Twitter @TD_BDelinski

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