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Civic Center closure to displace events
Civic Center.jpg

City officials have cancelled Smokin’ in McMinnville for 2019 due to impending Civic Center construction.

It’s just one of many events that will be disrupted or displaced as city officials are bracing for what could be a two-year stretch without the Civic Center.

“Events that are normally held at the Civic Center such as the craft fair, nursery show, Project Graduation, and all the annual meetings of the Chamber, Caney Fork Electric and Ben Lomand will have to find someplace else until the project is complete,” said McMinnville Parks and Recreation director Scott McCord. “Events held in the back parking lot, like the Kids Fun Fest, might not have to move. However, if they hold it there, there’s no moving it indoors if there’s bad weather.”

The city’s Finance Committee unanimously voted Wednesday night to cancel the annual Smokin’ in McMinnville BBQ event. 

“Smokin’ in McMinnville would be difficult, if not impossible, with the Civic Center being worked on,” said Alderman Everett Brock. “You barely have room for the professional teams. There probably won’t be any room for the backyard teams. It’s going to be a mess.”

The event has been offered since 2009 and is sanctioned by Kansas City BBQ Society. It draws professional BBQ teams from across Tennessee and from other states.

The measure came before the Finance Committee rather than the city’s Parks and Recreation Committee due to the event losing money. 

“You can look over the life of the event and it has never made money,” said Brock. “We don’t have to cancel it forever, but we need to do something for the next year or maybe two years. Then, we can consider what to do with it.” 

According to city records, the event has cost city taxpayers $76,917 since 2009. Those numbers are actual expenditures and do not reflect other costs such as paying city employees to organize, host and cleanup after the three-day event.

“Where we are losing money is the pro teams,” said McCord. “In 2014, we had 40. In 2015, we had 37. In 2016, we had 32. In 2017, we had 35. In 2018, we had 28. We need about 43 teams to cover the payout for prizes. This isn’t just us. It’s all similar events. If you don’t have 25, your event is cancelled.”

McCord added that all efforts have been made to improve public participation, as well as the financial bottom line.

No date has been given for the Civic Center to close for its $9.2 million renovation and expansion. City attorney Tim Pirtle is working on finalizing project contracts. He estimates the legalities will be complete before the end of 2018. Once the building is vacated and Sain Construction Company given notice to proceed, work will begin.