A project that had been discussed by community leaders for nearly two decades, the Bulloch County Agricultural Complex (BCAC) made its official and long-awaited debut with a ribbon-cutting ceremony on April 23, 2019. In the nearly five years since then, the multipurpose ag complex on Langston Chapel Road has been making an impression — with no plans of slowing down.
Discussions for the complex began in the late ‘90s, and in 1998, Bulloch County voters approved a Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax, or SPLOST, in order to fund it. Still, despite generating more than $6 million in SPLOST money, various delays kept the project on the back burner for years — until finally, in March 2017, county commissioners voted to approve beginning construction of the facility. After several budgetary changes, the complex — consisting of covered practice and performance arenas and walkways, an expansive stall barn and RV parking — was completed in the spring of 2019, with a final cost right around $6 million.
Within days of its opening, the events began. Billy Springer, who has been manager of the Ag Complex from the start, recalls the inaugural affair, a three-day team roping school hosted by Kevan Daniel and Brad Culpepper of the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association.
For Springer, his mission for the new complex was simple: to keep it busy.
“At least for me, the expectations were to build a book of business consisting of annual events that rolled over from one year to the next,” he said, adding that leaders hoped to draw a diverse calendar of events.
Though many weekends are filled with agricultural-related activities like equestrian meets and livestock shows, the complex regularly plays host to a variety of other events as well, including annual meetings and awards ceremonies. It’s a popular choice for businesses looking to host drive-thru events and product pickups, and when COVID was at its height, it served as a valuable outdoor venue that allowed for ample social distancing.
It’s also become the permanent home of the Bulloch County Recreation and Parks Department’s annual Trick or Treat event, which was originally moved to the complex in 2021 ahead of a drenching downpour.
“The arena has really been beneficial in regard to rain and weather issues,” said Kimberly Sharpe, marketing and events coordinator for the Recreation and Parks Department. “We have moved some events there permanently, and others (utilize it) as a backup location.”
Events that have benefited from the covered complex aren’t limited to those hosted by Recreation and Parks, however. Earlier that same year, the 2021 Statesboro Kiwanis Rodeo was held at the complex and also experienced torrential rainfall during its Saturday evening show. Had the event not been under the roof of the Ag Complex, the Kiwanis would have been forced to cancel the show, dealing a devastating blow to the civic organization that counts on the rodeo for much of its fundraising, as well as to the participants, some who traveled great distances, who would not have been able to compete.
Since April 2019, the Ag Complex has hosted 174 events in total, experiencing steady growth, even amid the COVID pandemic. According to Springer, the Statesboro Kiwanis Rodeo, held each April, and the annual JX2 Truck Roping event, held in October, have been the most popular and well-attended events to date. Currently, 49 events are on the calendar for the upcoming year, including the 2024 Kiwanis Rodeo, set for April 25–27.
In that time, the economic impact of the BCAC has become evident. Gross revenue at the complex averages around $185,000 each year, not counting the sponsorship money received. However, Springer said it’s also important to consider the direct economic impact of the facility on Bulloch County as a whole. When events are held at the complex, local businesses, restaurants, hotels and more see an influx of customers, resulting in additional revenue for the entire community — an estimated $2.1 million in 2023 alone.
Such a multipurpose facility requires a dedicated team. At present, it employs three full-time and five part-time employees and utilizes a four-man inmate crew Monday through Friday. In addition, Sharpe, based at the Recreation and Parks Department’s main office, maintains the website and handles marketing and public relations for the arena.
Now, following five years of continued success, even more growth is on the horizon for the expansive complex, following the recent purchase of adjacent farmland.
“We are in the process of working on a conceptual plan to add more parking, RV services and an additional livestock barn,” Springer said.
While he stresses that those plans are still in the conceptual phase, it’s clear that the future is bright for the Bulloch County Agricultural Complex, promising plenty of excitement for years to come.