The EpiCenter will serve Fort Bend County as the only designated emergency relief shelter in its centralized location along Hwy. 59 and Hwy. 36. The complex will also be a multipurpose event space that exceeds other centers in the county. Filling in the Gaps
Sizing up the center Timeline: fall 2021-summer 2023 Cost: $120 million Funding source: Fort Bend County general fund
195K Sq. Ft. facility 2.5K
7 access points
35K Sq. Ft.
Concerts, plays and shows Agricultural events
Emergency management County ocials were adamant the EpiCenter also has the capacity to shelter residents during natural disasters, such as Hurricane Harvey and the February 2021 winter storm, Matocha said. Ocials with the Fort Bend County Oce of Homeland Security & Emergency Management said there are no emergency shelters operating in the county. When Hurricane Harvey hit in August 2017, churches and schools were utilized for disaster relief but not to the scale of sheltering 1,200 people as planned for the EpiCenter, said Mary Sta, the public information ocer for emergency management. “Obviously for the size and the abil- ity that this structure will have within the actual county, there is nothing comparable,” she said. Aside from emergency shelter, Matocha said the EpiCenter could be used as a cooling and warming center in extreme weather events as well as
Show and Rodeo was involved in the project’s development and will occupy the facility a couple of weeks out of the year, Matocha said. Agri- cultural event coordinators can also utilize the nearby Fort Bend County Fairgrounds for more expansive shows, he said. More than 23 million jobs—17% of the civilian workforce—are involved in some facet of American agricul- ture, making it the nation’s larg- est employer, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. School districts such as Lamar CISD and Fort Bend ISD could also use the EpiCenter for graduations, sporting competitions, teacher meetings, con- vocations and other events through- out the year, Matocha said. Matocha added the design and larger capacity of the EpiCenter will only enhance other facilities within the county, including the Smart Financial Centre in Sugar Land and the Merrell Center located on Katy ISD grounds, and was not intended to compete with them. “Smart Finan-
Graduations/school district events Emergency dispatch/ operations
1 Merrell Center Capacity: 7,200 2 Fort Bend County Emergency Operations Center Capacity: Homeland Security and Emergency Management sta
3 Smart Financial Centre Capacity: 6,400 4 StaordCentre Capacity: 1,155
5 Fort Bend County EpiCenter Capacity: 10,400 Emergency shelter capacity: 1,200
SOURCES: KATY ISD, SMART FINANCIAL CENTRE, STAFFORD CENTRE, FORT BEND COUNTY, TRAFFIC ENGINEERS INC., STONEHENGE HOLDINGS LLCCOMMUNITY IMPACT
Serving county needs The 230,000-square-foot complex is designed to hold space for sporting competitions, graduations, and agri- cultural events such as the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo. The cen- ter will include a main event arena with an up to 10,400 seating capacity, an outdoor pavilion and plaza with a fountain. The facility will ll a gap in the county, George said. “Fort Bend County does not have an event facility [or] a facility where our kids could go graduate,” George said. “Our children go to the Toyota Center to graduate from Fort Bend County. We do not have [a] facility available with a capacity of 10,000 or more.” Matocha said sports tourism is a growing industry across the U.S. With families traveling long distances for their children to compete, he expects this will “put visiting heads in beds” and create the need for restaurants and retail in the surrounding area. “The indirect impact of events associated with sports tourism is enormous,” he said. “The projec- tions are showing between around $18 million a year progressing up to about $25 million a year.” Additionally, the Houston Livestock
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expressed apprehension for the county to shoulder the burden of cost with no share from the city of Rosen- berg. His concerns were the lack of shared costs—a custom for other centers in the county, like the Smart Financial Centre in Sugar Land; rising ination rates like the 9.5% the state of Texas is experiencing and the 8.5% currently faced nationwide; and a shifting economy, especially since the project was approved in 2021. Still, Meyers and other ocials agreed the EpiCenter will benet the county directly and indirectly. A feasi- bility study conducted in 2017 by stra- tegic planning rm Convention Sports and Leisure determined four main uses for the center: sports tourism, agri- cultural events, use by local school districts and emergency management. Stonehenge founder and CEO Kevin Matocha projects the complex will quickly become an economic asset to the county. “When you look at the debt ser- vice the county will pay versus the indirect impact that it will make to the county, it’s a great investment for the county,” Matocha said.
a temporary emer- gency operations cen- ter due to its backup generators. During the planning stage for this project, cre- ating more resources for disaster relief for county residents was of particular importance to com- missioners, he said. Especially consid- ering the impacts of Hurricane Harvey. “[Emergency man- agement resources]
“WHEN YOU LOOK AT THE DEBT SERVICE THE COUNTY WILL PAY VERSUS THE INDIRECT IMPACT THAT IT WILL MAKE TO THE COUNTY, IT’S A GREAT INVESTMENT FOR THE COUNTY.” KEVIN MATOCHA,
cial has a dierent design and smaller footprint,” he said. “From a sporting events standpoint, it is not designed for that. It’s designed for more concert venues. … The Merrell Center would have more con- certs, smaller gradua- tion groups and is not really designed for agriculture events.”
STONEHENGE HOLDINGS LLC FOUNDER AND CEO
were one thing all the commissioners certainly had on their mind as well as how could this facility accommodate people in times of need,” Matocha said. “It was certainly a well researched item and something that we wanted to be able to provide as well.” Its location on the egress of Hwy. 59 and Hwy. 36 makes the EpiCenter prime to provide shelter
In addition to the entertainment and community attractions that will stim- ulate small businesses, the EpiCenter can also be converted into an emer- gency shelter in the case of extreme weather events, Matocha said. This was particularly important to county ocials who were involved in the fea- sibility study in 2017 while considering the impacts of Hurricane Harvey.
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