SPRINGFIELD, Mo. – The Ozark Empire Fairgrounds are making way for a new 93,000-square-foot event facility and Youth Ag Education Center.
Work started on the $25 million Ozark Empire Fair and Event Center (OEFEC) on Nov. 17 with roughly 180 locals in attendance. The new arena will seat about 6,300 people, compared to the former Corwin Arena’s 2,800 seats.
Fairground leaders hope the modern arena will attract major event organizers in the future and bring new scenery to Springfield. Event center General Manager Aaron Owen says the concept for the new arena dates back to 2014, with visits to other fairground facilities across the state for ideas.
Fundraising efforts started in 2020, and Owen says the new venue is being brought to fruition thanks to a combination of city, state, county and private funding.
The 24,300-square-foot lower level of the facility will host the 10,000-square-foot Youth Ag Education Center where students can delve into different aspects of agriculture. But aside from the education center, OEFEC is looking to bring in much larger events including trade shows, horse and livestock shows, archery competitions, rodeos, BMX competitions, indoor motorsports and much more.
The venue will have retractable lower-level seating, concessions and a 45,000 square-foot mezzanine floor with VIP seating for all events taking place on the lower level.
A primary goal for the new venue is to attract the Missouri high school basketball state championship tournaments. Missouri State University’s JQH Arena has hosted the last five state championship tournaments and has tallied an estimated $80,000 in local revenue.
While Columbia, Missouri recently outbid Springfield to host the 2023 championships, OEFEC and Springfield leaders are determined to bring them back to Southwest Missouri.
The new event facility also will be able to double as extra space for disaster relief or community related events and gatherings, Owen said.