BUCKHANNON - The Buckhannon Chamber of Commerce got an inside look Monday at construction work at the new National Guard Armory.
Officials are hoping the facility, located along Brushy Fork Road near Buckhannon, will bring new events to the area and help local businesses.
"We have an official move-in date set for Sept. 1," Laura McDaniels, the Brushy Fork Event Center manager with the Upshur County Convention and Visitors Bureau, told Chamber members during their monthly meeting Monday. "We are not taking any event booking for before Oct. 1, but we do have some dates filling up quickly."
Buckhannon resident Jim Vance, left, looks at the locker room facility at the new Army National Guard building, to be the home of the Brushy Fork Conference Center. Project Manager Kenny Walters, with the West Virginia State Armory Board, led a tour through the facility. (The Inter-Mountain photo by Anthony Gaynor)
McDaniels said she has been receiving calls to book the facility, but a fee structure is still in the works.
"Right now, I am working with the Armory to set up the fee structure," she said.
After the meeting, Chamber members and residents gathered at the new facility for a walk-through to get an early look. Project Manager Kenny Walters, with the West Virginia State Armory Board, led the tour through the building.
"Everything is going great," Walters said. "We are on schedule with the work."
Walters explained the design of the building and the color schemes being used are meant to mimic the look of a courthouse. He said the conference center will have a kitchen available and it features "easy access" doors that are separate from the main entrance.
McDaniels said the conference center will seat approximately 400 people and features round tables.
"We are hoping it opens a lot of doors for larger training events and conferences," McDaniels said. "We want to open the doors to give the area a nice facility to use."
McDaniels said even through the center is not accepting any booking for dates before Oct. 1, there is a lot of interest in the facility.
"We are taking reservations now," she said.
"We don't know pricing yet, but we are working on that."
She said anyone wanting more information should call the Upshur County Convention and Visitors Bureau at 304-473-1400.
Chamber President Lori Meadows said the new facility will help show off the local area.
"Anytime there is a training or banquet facility available for a regional basis, it helps expose what the area has to offer," she said. "It also helps the quality of life for residents. This center fills a void in what we could offer."
Meadows said Buckhannon does not have a large corporate training facility or event hall, and opening the conference center will give a new dynamic to the area that could help attract businesses.
"It is another tool in our arsenal," she said. "Businesses think about where they are going to locate and relocate. This gives us another item to help attract them. We didn't have anything for large receptions before this."
Meadows said having the center available for wedding receptions and other events means local photographers, restaurants and catering services could all see benefits from the opening.
Upshur County Convention and Visitors Bureau Director Laura Meadows said the facility brings something new to the Buckhannon area.
"It is really nice. We haven't had a place like this," she said. "It fills a void for something we couldn't offer before. We've had a lot of interest in this type of property. We already have a list of people that want to make use of the building."
Laura Meadows said she hopes the conference center will attract statewide conferences and other types of special events.
Chamber member Dr. Joseph Reel said it looked as if the construction of the facility was proceeding well.
"I think it is a work in progress," he said. "I hope it can be used in a productive way. I think if we can leverage reasonable use it will be good for the community."
Buckhannon resident Jim Vance said the tour was informative and said the building looked to be very functional.
"It would be nice to have some conventions come to Buckhannon," he said.
Also during Monday's meeting, chamber members were treated to a performance from the musical "Oliver!" by the Buckhannon Community Theater. The theater has multiple performances of the show planned from Aug. 7-10 at the West Virginia Wesleyan College Performing Arts Center.