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Kalahari to buy Expo Center
The Fredericksburg Expo and Conference Center may be sold to Kalahari.
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Date published: 3/21/2008
Kalahari Resorts plans to eventually buy the Fredericksburg Expo and Convention Center and operate it as part of the water-park hotel and conference center it plans to build in Celebrate Virginia, according to Jud Honaker, the Silver Cos. president of commercial development.
For that reason, Kalahari has asked that the 18.8-acre Expo Center property be included in the tax increment financing, or TIF, district the city proposes to create to distribute incentives to the resort operator.
The addition of the Expo land to the Kalahari TIF district became public Tuesday, when a legal ad in The Free Lance-Star and a map released at a City Council work session both indicated these boundaries for the district.
City officials say this is because Kalahari asked for this land to be included in the TIF district last week. City Council members were briefed on this development in a closed session last Tuesday.
City Economic Development Director Kevin Gullette said this new development does not change the basic nature of the Kalahari incentives package.
But it has raised questions among some council members, particularly because as recently as January, council members were publicly debating whether the city should grant the Expo Center $225,000 a year for three years to help it enhance its operations.
Councilman Marvin Dixon said he never supported the Expo subsidy, and "Once you tie Expo to Kalahari it complicates the policy discussion."
Gullette emphasized that the inclusion of the Expo property in the Kalahari TIF district was not a way to revive the Expo grant, which was tabled in January.
"In no way is the city backing into an incentive package for the Expo Center through the TIF district," Gullette said yesterday. "Everything we are doing is for Kalahari Resorts."
Honaker said the idea of Kalahari and the Expo Center being connected in some fashion has been part of talks about the project from day one.