Henderson leaders considering convention center
HENDERSON, Ky. (WFIE) - Henderson city and county leaders are exploring the possibility of building a convention center at John James Audubon State Park.
Back in 2015, the city created a vision plan, dreaming about what the future of Henderson.
Henderson Mayor Brad Staton says two things stood out from that plan — a sports complex and a convention center.
As we’ve reported, crews broke ground on the sports complex in Dec. 2022. Now the path is set for a convention center, too.
“It’s a project that we’ve planned and hoped for for many years,” said Kurt Wilson with The Friends of Audubon.
Officials say before plans for a convention center can come in, they must do a feasibility study.
“We are walking into step one, but without completing this study, we hit a wall,” said Abby Dixon, executive director for the Henderson Tourist Commission.
Leaders plan to ask for funding to hire a firm that would conduct the feasibility study. That would allow them to look at the economic pros and cons of a convention center.
One of the pros lies with the state. Leaders say the Kentucky State Parks Department reached out to several Kentucky cities, including Henderson, to see if they’d be interested in partnering to improve state parks.
The state offered to match Henderson’s funding, paying for 50% of the convention center.
“We can end up having a convention center, and improve John James Audubon Park at the same time,” said Henderson Mayor Brad Staton.
Officials estimate the project would cost $15 million, with roughly $7.5 of the funding being provided by the state.
That includes building a 25,000-square-foot convention center and adding an access road to the park at Watson Lane.
Staton says Watson lane will be expanded soon.
Henderson County Judge Executive Brad Schneider has no doubts they’ll be able to raise the money needed to build the convention center.
“We’re in a bit on a renaissance right now in Henderson and Henderson County,” Schneider said. “Great things are happening here. Why not use this surge in momentum to do the things we always wanted with community amenities?”
Step one is conducting the feasibility study. If leaders decide to move forward, they hope to present the project with that study to the state in the fall.
Staton says the city and county will have to budget for construction. He hopes to do this without raising tax dollars.
There are a lot of steps left before construction could begin, but Staton says if all goes well, work could start within the next two years.
“We’re really excited,” Wilson said. “We think that it’s a once in a life time opportunity if we can get this completed.”
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