A new $2.5 million event and exposition center at Canterbury Park that could host auto shows, winter sports shows, and hunting and fishing expos is in the works.

The 30,000-square-foot space will bring the Shakopee racetrack's total footprint to more than 100,000 square feet, making it the fourth-largest exhibit space in the Twin Cities.

“The addition of the event building allows us to host new events throughout the year when space otherwise was not available,” Canterbury Park President and CEO Randy Sampson said in a statement.

Horse-racing season at Canterbury Park runs from mid-May through mid-September, which limits the availability of event dates. “The new structure allows for stand-alone events during the racing season as well as events tied to specific race day promotions,” he added.

“Promoters and exhibitors can hold an event here during the summer knowing they have opportunity for exposure to thousands of people outside their normal audiences,” Sampson said.

Last year, the 69-day racing season drew an daily average attendance of 6,656.

The new structure, designed by Out Of The Box Architecture of Lake Elmo, features a 120-foot clear span joist system with 24,000 square feet of unobstructed assembly space and 6,000 square feet of entry area, offices, restrooms and storage. The spire and the round entrance door features are designed to be consistent with the existing architecture of the grandstand built in 1985.

“We have been severally limited in the winter months operating with a tent structure that is well past its expected life span,” said Special Events Manager Mary Pat Monson. “The new expo center is a year-round facility that is completely climate controlled. We will attract many new shows and lure back shows that relocated because of the limitations of the old structure.”

Canterbury officials hired Minneapolis-based Marquette Advisors to conduct demographic and economic feasibility studies. They determined that the business climate and population increases in the market area are creating strong growth in demand for event and exposition space.

Construction will begin in May with a completion date slated for early September 2014.

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