Forsyth County may soon take a big step forward on building a big event center at Tanglewood Park, making it possible for the county to hold concerts, expositions and other indoor events like Winston-Salem does at the fairgrounds.
The Forsyth County Board of Commissioners are expected to vote on July 29 whether to enter into a contract with Shelco LLC for a maximum amount of $450,000 for design and other pre-construction services on the center, which has a $5 million budget.
Shelco would use the services of Walter, Robbs, Callahan & Pierce-Architects for architectural work.
County Manager Dudley Watts said that the center will be designed for maximum flexibility: While its location near Tanglewood’s horse barns will give the center attraction for agriculturally related events, county officials say the center can be a regional draw for many other types of events.
“Tanglewood is already the single most-visited place in the county,” Watts said. “A lot of people know that place. I think it will be well-received by the community of promoters who create events.”
And while Watts sees the center as an operation that hopes to break even for the county, the spin-off effect could be a plus for hotel operators and others who cater to tourists, Watts said.
Voters approved the construction of the center as part of the 2016 bond referendum. A lot of work has gone on mostly behind the scenes to put together the plans that are now coming to the foreground.
Plans call for a 50,000-square-foot building, which would be larger than both the Annex and Education buildings at the Winston-Salem Fairgrounds.
“We don’t really have any large-gathering event spaces in the county,” Watts said. “This will be something that is unique.”
James Anderson, the design and construction manager for Forsyth County, said completing the center could be an 18-month undertaking: six months to complete the designs, followed by a year for construction.
Shelco would be acting as both designer and builder on the project, if the county goes forward with the company’s selection on July 29.
Shelco was picked through a process in which eight teams submitted responses. The list was whittled down to three teams, and Shelco and the architectural firm were deemed the most qualified by county staff.
Assuming the county goes forward with the selection of Shelco, the company would develop a guaranteed maximum price for the work.
The site of the event center would be land close to Shelter 2 at the park. The site is on the north side of an outdoor riding ring on the east side of the Tanglewood Park. It is also near the horse barns.
The center could host agricultural events such as horse and cattle shows, livestock clinics, tractor pulls, rodeos, auctions and farm heritage events.
But that’s not all: non-agricultural public events at the center could include festivals, summer camps, consignment sales, gun and knife shows, dog and cat shows, holiday events, concerts, BMX and golf shows, expositions of various kinds and others.
County officials say the center could also host community, institutional and private events: Cooperative extension events, graduation ceremonies, weddings, reunions, civic club events and others.
Rich Geiger, the president of Visit Winston-Salem, said the county’s new center could be attractive to groups wanting to hold post-pandemic events that give people a chance to also go outside.
“There is always opportunity adding another venue in town to attract additional business,” Geiger said. “The park itself is beautiful. It is a great golf venue.”
Although the county considered a number of locations around the county in other parks, Watts said the presence of park staff at Tanglewood helps the economics of the center since “the parks staff would manage it and lease it just like they do with everything else there.”
Tanglewood is already well-known as a tourist draw, thanks in no small amount to the annual Festival of Lights. Watts said the park already has experience handling crowds.
“It can be an exposition center that will be a big draw regionally and help out tourism,” Watts said. “A lot of folks know that place.”