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Bill Freehling is a business writer for The Free Lance-Star and Fredericksburg.com. This blog is on Fredericksburg-area business. Send an e-mail to Bill Freehling.
Meadow Event Park likely to be sold in one piece
A scheduled May 22 auction for the 330-acre former Caroline County home of the State Fair of Virginia could be straightforward due to a series of recent meetings.
After meeting with officials from Hanover and Caroline counties as well as the creditors in the State Fair of Virginia’s Chapter 7 bankruptcy case, the auctioneer is strongly leaning toward giving prospective buyers just two choices:
All or nothing.
Richmond-based Motley’s Auction & Realty Group had been planning to auction the Meadow Event Park in four or more real estate parcels, as well as giving buyers the opportunity to purchase the entire property.
President and CEO Mark Motley said meetings with Hanover and Caroline officials led him to rethink that strategy. County officials prefer to see the property sold to one group that would run the State Fair and other events at the Meadow park. The property’s zoning, as well as water and sewer agreements in place with Caroline and Hanover, would also make subdividing the facility complicated.
Motley thinks selling the parcel as a single unit may limit the number of buyers, but he said most of the interest he’s received so far has in fact been from groups that want to purchase the entire property and run the fair and other events there. He thinks the property has the potential to hold horse and car shows, the fair, wedding receptions and many other large events throughout the year.
The State Fair of Virginia name will probably be sold as part of the real estate. Other assets, such as the Statefair.com web domain and other intellectual property, could be sold separately. A separate online auction will run May 15-May 24 at Motleys.com for equipment from the Meadow park.
The secured creditors have to complete a foreclosure sale before they can take title to the property, but the bonds used to finance the property’s development could be sold before the auction. An auction still would have to take place under that scenario, but the new bondholders could submit a credit bid up to the amount of their debt to purchase the property or allow the property to be sold to another third party.
Motley’s staff has been busy taking inventory of the equipment and maintaining the property since being selected a few weeks ago to handle the auction on behalf of the creditors. A tour of the property on Wednesday showed it to be in excellent condition.
Mark Motley won’t say what he thinks the property might fetch, but he thinks it’s worth more than the $5.5 million that an unnamed Richmond-based real-estate developer offered earlier this year. That developer’s plan was to lease it back to the State Fair, which declared bankruptcy late last year. The creditors’ rejection of the offer led to the Chapter 11 bankruptcy case being converted to a Chapter 7 liquidation.
Motley pointed out that the State Fair borrowed about $85 million to develop the Meadow park into its new home starting in 2009. The fair had previously been in Richmond.
In addition to wide swaths of land on both sides of State Route 30 in Caroline near Kings Dominion, the buyer would be purchasing a 76,000-square-foot exhibit hall, a 13,000-square-foot manor house for special events (the May 22 auction will likely be held there), 24,000 square feet of barns and stables, four riding rings, a 10,000-square-foot expo center, three houses and an RV park with hookups. The deal would also include the foaling shed in which legendary racehorse Secretariat was born.
“They really built a first-class facility,” Motley said this week during the tour. “Absolutely beautiful.”