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Kentucky Exposition Center’s $180 million renovation will bring big changes

Stephanie Wolf

One of the country’s largest convention centers is slated to see big changes in the next several years.

Members of the Kentucky State Fair Board, as well as state and city lawmakers, met at the Kentucky Exposition Center on Tuesday to discuss plans for $180 million in upcoming renovations at the facility.

In March, the state legislature passed a two-year budget that included $200 million for the fair board to use toward property improvements. The agency oversees the exposition center and the Kentucky International Convention Center, both in Louisville.

The expo center renovation plan includes shifting the facility’s main entrance from the south to a new design in the north and adding at least a dozen sports fields.

The plan also calls for expanding the center’s north wing, which contains its largest exhibit hall, and tearing down the west wing — which hosts events like trade shows — to create green space and more parking spots.

Mark Lynn, chair of the board, said changes would take place in phases to prevent any events from being impacted, and that groundbreaking could begin by late 2023.

He also said his agency had started turning a net profit just before the pandemic, and that it still wants to be a financial asset.

“We have an opportunity to be that economic driver that the state so desperately needs. Not the sole one, not the only one that’s out there, but sure as heck a major one,” Lynn said.

Lynn added that the board will work with private partners to provide 50% in matching funds for the $180 million project.

Officials also discussed the possibility of further state funding for additional expo center renovations, which Lynn estimated could add up to $400 million.

Kentucky Senate President Robert Stivers, a Republican, said he hopes the current round of funding is the first part of a larger state package.

“This is not the end of the commitment. We hope, if everything goes right… to convert this to a $400 million project,” Stivers said.

The Kentucky Exposition Center features 1.2 million square feet, per the facility’s website. It hosts events such as the Kentucky State Fair and the Bourbon and Beyond music festival.

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