Hyder-Burks Ag Pavilion Marks 5th Anniversary of Regional Service and Economic Benefit

From trade shows to conventions to livestock shows and sheep sales, there's no other facility like it anywhere in the region.

It has been nearly five years since the first phase of Tennessee Technological University's W. Clyde Hyder-Tommy Burks Agricultural Pavilion opened, and now, several hundred thousand visitors and hundreds of events later, the complex is considered one of the biggest boosts to the Cookeville area in recent years.

"I can't say enough good things about the agricultural pavilion," said Laura Wolf, coordinator of the annual Home Show held there last March. "We've been able to offer more in this region and bring more activities to the Cookeville area than ever before. Until it opened, there was no public arena to showcase events and community programs like the children's shows and rodeos available to us now.

"We've held the Home Show there for four consecutive years, and it has grown bigger and better than ever before."

The Hyder-Burks Agricultural Pavilion, a 3.5 acre complex off Gainesboro Grade, is a multipurpose facility operated by Tennessee Tech's School of Agriculture. It includes an indoor heated arena, a convention room, a covered livestock barn and a sales/demonstration arena.

Built primarily as an educational facility, the pavilion complex also plays host to hundreds of educational, recreational and commercial events, offering a convention-center atmosphere for the region. The first phase, which included the barn and sales arena, opened in 1993. The indoor arena, which seats 2,200 people, was dedicated in 1995.

While the pavilion's economic impact on the community is difficult to calculate exactly, at least one study completed in 1996 estimated the pavilion's overall revenue impact was $1.8 million that year alone. And there's little doubt among the facility's patrons that it has increased since.

The study, which included random surveys of visitors and participants, calculated the pavilion's total economic impact in Putnam County using an annual average of 40,000 visitors and U.S. Department of Commerce economic multipliers. However, a conservative count for last year alone showed 56,000 people visited the pavilion, according to manager Richard Brown.

"When you bring that many people in - whether it's for a horse show or sheep sale or judging contest - when they come in for two to three days, they bring in a lot of money with them," said Scott Chadwell, UT agricultural extension agent for Putnam County. "Nearly everybody goes out to eat in Cookeville, and nearly every hotel room in town is full. Our district shows cover 27 Tennessee counties."

The State 4-H Sheep Show is scheduled later this month, and Chadwell predicts a large turnout.

"With the Sheep Show, about 500 young people and their parents will be attending, and we'll use every inch of the pavilion's barn for it," he said. "The pavilion's a big improvement over the Tennessee State Fairgrounds in many ways. For one, Cookeville's a much better environment for our young people.

"All of our shows here get really crowded. Some of the kids attending this year have already booked hotel rooms for next year because they know how popular it is. Some come up just for the day, but most of them are here for a three-day period, and almost all of them bring their parents with them."

According to Ben Byler, director of the School of Agriculture, the Hyder-Burks Pavilion is recognized as one of the most versatile and user-friendly facilities of its kind in the region and in the nation.

"Because of that versatility, we've been able to attract a variety of activities and shows to this region that would have been impossible before."

The Tennessee Cattlemen's Association will move its annual meeting to the pavilion from Nashville this fall, and the State High School Rodeo finals relocated to Cookeville from Memphis for the first time this year.

As important as its economic impact to the region is the pavilion's benefit to Tennessee Tech and its School of Agriculture, Byler said.

"Prospective students attend a variety of recruiting-oriented events, and enrolled students use the facilities in classes, laboratories and other teaching programs. They have access to facilities not available anywhere else."

And soon the pavilion will be even more visible to the community. Its new marquee listing scheduled events should be up soon.