Vigo County commissioners have approved a long-term lease with a locally owned group that intends to convert about 34 acres of the former International Paper site along Prairieton Road into an outdoor multi-purpose music and event center.
It’s a concept that has been in the works since October 2018, when Tim Drake, his wife, brother-in-law Jason Lane and two other investors formed Lukebo Inc.
The group at that time had hoped to renovate a former 15,000-square-foot warehouse for use as a stage and was the lone firm to submit a proposal for the county-owned property.
However, that warehouse building has since deteriorated beyond use, Drake said Tuesday.
“Our plan has changed. Everything has kind of flip-flopped,” Drake said. “The building has deteriorated and when we added up the cost of the roof, and getting utilities there with water and power, it could cost $300,000, probably $500,000 to do it 100 percent right — and that was before we finished the building.
“So with nothing in the county budget to get the utilities back there, we decided to come toward Prairieton Road to where it will be cheaper to get things going. It will be an open concept [and will] probably start off with flat ground. We will proof the concept and go from there and keep on growing,” Drake said.
That means in the first year a large mobile stage will be used as well as Porta-Potties. Then the group plans to build restrooms and a stage.
“We will bring in some people in the [outdoor music show] industry to access what would be the best for the market. I still think we will be in the 6,000-person range,” Drake said for music events.
“With the ground there ... we have possibilities for festivals, and the only thing that could slow us down is the amount of parking,” he said.
Lukebo Inc. has the option to use ground on the south side of the road for overflow parking for events. Additionally, Lukebo will maintain both the north side and south side as far as mowing and ground maintenance.
“This will not cost the county anything and will bring back some [property] tax revenue,” said Board of Commissioners President Brad Anderson.
In 2018, Lukebo Inc. stated it would invest about $1.5 million.
“Until the architects break it down and we know a true size of a stage and cost of materials like steel, we are not sure of the cost. It will not be cheap,” Drake said. “It will be in the multi-millions. It will not all be this year, but over time.”
The music event center still has obstacles to tackle before ground work can start.
Lukebo must seek a rezoning of the property from the Terre Haute City Council for commercial use to enable retail and food and beverage services, Drake said. The property now is located in an industrial area. Additionally, Lukebo must obtain a state liquor license, Drake said.
Depending on weather “and if all the stars align, it could be August to possibly jump in there. We have feelers out for bands that would be available. It will be up to us to get our due diligence done before we can really get moving on it,” Drake said. “But we are determined.”
County Attorney Michael Wright said the lease is for 45 years.
Lukebo Inc. must prepare the property, remove old building foundations on the property at their risk. The lease includes everything north of the main access road and the remaining property, except the building on the back end of the property.
In addition, the south side of the property should be available for overflow parking for the event center, as well as for overflow parking for the next door Vigo County Aquatic Center, when that ground is not being used by the event center.
“Tim has agreed to undertake the process of grading and developing the site,” Wright said. “From a perspective of an undertaking, it is a heavy one. There is probably a lot of former foundations and things that are undesirable not far underground there. Tim is willing to push forward on that idea at his risk and try to develop something that would be a big win for the community.”
“I think we are all excited about something being on the property,” Commissioner Brad Anderson said.
Tim Drake is part owner of Show-Me’s in Terre Haute. He also formerly worked for 317 Productions at what is now the Ruoff Home Mortgage Music Center in Noblesville.