Southwest Virginia now has its own exposition center, strategically located for residents of four neighboring states to enjoy as a tourism destination. The Appalachian Regional Exposition Center (APEX) in Wythe County hosted its first events on Friday, January 25th and Saturday, January 26th to a crowd of 1,100 on opening night and 1,950 on Saturday.
The American Roughstock Association finals (aka Revenge Roughstock Rodeo) is promoted by Martin Towery and family. Events included barrel racing, bronco and bull riding, with participants as young as age 12 competing in the various events.
APEX was a dream begun 20 years ago that became a reality with last weekend’s events. Members of the Southwest Virginia Horseman’s Association had expressed a need for a center that could host horse shows and other similar events. Over the years and with additional recommendations from others, the 60,000 square foot arena, which can seat 2,000 in permanent bleacher-type seats and another 2,500 in temporary chairs, is anticipated to provide an excellent venue for a multitude of events.
The APEX building is located at 290 Ready Mix Road in Wythe County across the interstate from the Virginia State Police office near the Petro and Flying J stations. It has modern offices and four spacious conference/classrooms for use with a seating capacity of 36 each.
According to Blake Stowers, Public Information Officer for Wythe County, “APEX will be great for the community and region and will provide an excellent venue for events not previously available in our area. Approximately 80,000 vehicles pass this location on a daily basis; this will help make our area a tourism destination rather than a ‘gas and go’ stop.”
Other events such as concerts and bridal shows are seen as being a good fit for the facility as well.
Stowers predicts APEX could create $3 million in revenue for the area over the next five years.
Stephen Bear, Wythe County Administator said the current building plan was introduced to the Wythe Board of Supervisors in 2016. The Board of Supervisors established an APEX Authority Board and the County agreed to purchase 96 acres of land adjacent to I-81 at Exit 77 for $1.4 million; with 41 acres to be used for the APEX facility. Plans to develop some of the remaining acreage into retail operations are being considered.
Funding has been provided through several sources. The Southwest Virginia Horsman’s Association donated $267,000 to pay for the bleacher-type seats in the APEX building. The Virginia Tobacco Commission awarded Wythe County a $750,000 grant to assist in the construction of the APEX facility. An additional $200,000 matching grant from the Virginia Tobacco Commission has been promised for the construction of a multipurpose building which will be located adjacent to the APEX building. Outdoor multipurpose athletic fields, horse ring, training facilities and offices are in the planning stage.
RGM Erectors, Inc. of Max Meadows is the general contractor. Robert Melton, president of RGM, said he was committed to use local suppliers and sub-contractors.
“I tried to keep the money in the area using local companies from Pulaski, Wythe and Smith counties and Bluefield. This was a major undertaking,” stated Melton, who has been in the construction industry for 48-years.
Although the building was manufactured by A&S Building Systems in Andersonville, TN, Melton used Southern Air as his HVAC contractor; Jack Owens & Son for plumbing; Virginia Paving from Ft. Chiswell, Helms Construction in Shawsville who provided the interior and exterior concrete and Jay Brewster Trucking as the grading and asphalt contractor.
APEX Authority Board member, Cathy Pattison, stated this was only Phase One of the project. There are still portions of the project to complete, such as the landscaping. “Everything just takes time and money. This weekend is our soft opening,” referring to the Roughstock Rodeo. “It is anticipated that the official opening will happen around March 2019.”
For Booking inquiries call 276.335.2739
By DANIELLE REID, The Patriot