Washington County to Build New Community Event Center

After many years of preparation and planning, Washington County's vision for a new event, exhibition and conference center is beginning to unfold, with strong support from the City of Hillsboro and other community partners. The Event Center, proposed as a key feature and centerpiece of a revitalized Fair Complex, is designed to accommodate the needs of a wide range of community activities. While continuing to support and enhance the annual Washington County Fair, the Event Center will provide year-round opportunities for large community gatherings.

The new Washington County Event Center will be approximately 91,200 square feet and will include exposition space and a state-of-the-art conference center with commercial kitchen, concessions and offices. The spacious interior will be complemented by a large entry plaza adjacent to the lobby, and an outdoor exhibit area on the west, opening into the interior grounds of the Fair Complex. The new venue will offer various room configurations sized to accommodate consumer shows, conferences and trade shows, corporate meetings and seminars, banquets and receptions, fundraisers, festivals, spectator events and a variety of community uses. During the annual County Fair, the Event Center will provide ample indoor exhibit space, restrooms and concessions.



Historical Roots

The evolving story of the Washington County Fair Complex is intertwined with the long, rich history of early pioneers who settled in the Tualatin Valley, raised their families, crops and livestock, and held the first ever Washington County Fair in October of 1854. Today, high-tech and world-wide manufacturing companies have become a part of Washington County's rich economic and culturally diverse landscape. These changes have contributed to the community spirit of that very first fair and the desire to celebrate and showcase a close connection to the land.


Over the generations, forward-thinking leaders purchased and developed a series of parcels of public land that would each serve as the County fairgrounds for a time. Eventually, the community would outgrow one site and move to another more suitable location that could accommodate a growing and changing population. From the site of the first fair in what is now Forest Grove, to a tract of land near Hillsboro's Shute Park, to its current location along NE 34th Avenue and Cornell Road, the Washington County Fair has evolved into one of the most popular and highly respected fairs in the region. 

The Master Plan
In an effort to ensure long-term stability of the County Fair, as well as the ability of the Fair Complex to meet the needs of the wider community well into the future, the Board of County Commissioners initiated a strategic planning process in 2007. This effort led to the creation of a "Fairgrounds Master Plan" by a 15-member Fairgrounds Revitalization Task Force, representing a broad range of interests. Their work also included a comprehensive report which detailed their findings and recommendations to the Board. Ten years later, Washington County is now on the threshold of reaching one of the major milestones of the Master Plan. 

Although best understood as conceptual, the Master Plan is the foundational document for revitalization and enhancement of the Fair Complex. Its flexibility has allowed for review and refinement over the years, reflecting changes related to new opportunities, potential funding sources and cost increases. The Event Center is a key component of a campus of venues envisioned by the Master Plan which will serve year-round needs of the community.

Funding Strategy
Through leadership provided by the Board of Commissioners and the City of Hillsboro, along with input from numerous community stakeholders, a strategy has been developed to fund this community need without raising taxes. Major funding for the Washington County Event Center will come from the County's Gain Share and Transient Lodging Tax (TLT) revenue, along with an $8 million contribution by the City of Hillsboro (also through TLT) and $1 million from the Washington County Visitors Association (WCVA). The total budget is estimated at $46 million.

Timeline
Design development will continue through the end of 2017 and early 2018. Other pre-construction activities will include the permitting process and selection of a general contractor, with groundbreaking tentatively planned for the end of 2018. Currently, the estimated completion date for the Washington County Event Center is in the fall of 2020.