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Llano County, city begin negotiations for JLK center trade

John L. Kuykendall Arena and Events Center

The John L. Kuykendall Arena and Events Center could be traded to the county for county-owned property within the city of Llano. The city has been operating the center at a deficit since 2017. Staff photo by Dakota Morrissiey

Negotiations between the city of Llano and Llano County concerning a trade of county-owned property for the city-owned John L. Kuykendall Arena and Events Center moved forward at the Commissioners Court meeting Monday, Aug. 8. Talks began at the commissioners’ last meeting on July 25, when newly elected Llano Mayor Kelli Tudyk presented the idea to the county.

The JLK center is located on 88 acres at 2200 RR 152 West. The facility consists of a rodeo arena and a 25,000-square-foot, climate-controlled building.

Tudyk proposed trading the center for county-owned property within the city of Llano, including Badu Park, Grenwelge Park, and portions of Robinson Park.

The city has been operating the center at a loss since 2017, according to Llano Alderman Wayne DeCesaris, who presented his findings to commissioners alongside Tudyk. Between 2017 and 2021, the city operated the center at a total loss of about $351,000. 

The loss was attributed to the city’s lack of funds, resources, and manpower necessary to effectively run the center.

Commissioner Jerry Don Moss will head the negotiations on the county’s behalf. Moss represents Precinct 4, which includes the city of Llano.

“I do think the county can operate (the center) a little more efficiently,” Moss said. “Mainly because we have more manpower and we have a budget from the hotel occupancy tax that can fund it.”

The hotel occupancy tax comes from a state, county, and city tax rate that is applied to revenue generated by hotels and vacation rentals. HOT funds can only be used to promote the tourism, convention, and hotel industries. 

According to Moss, the center qualifies for HOT funds.

“I think we can work things out,” he said. “I think we’re in it for the same reasons: to keep the center operating for the residents and youths of Llano County.”

The JLK center brings in large events such as rodeos, motocross, and monster truck rallies. It also functions as a meeting space for local 4-H and FFA clubs and livestock shows.

According to Tudyk, the center has a huge economic impact on the community. Attendees from events stay in local hotels, eat at local restaurants, fill up on local gas, and shop at local stores.

“It’s a domino effect, what we would be losing if we didn’t have it,” Tudyk said. “It is an immeasurable cost at this point.”

HOT funds support Llano festivals such as the Llano Earth Art Fest and the Llano Crawfish Open, which also have a beneficial impact on Llano’s economy. Closing the center would mean a significant loss in HOT funds due to the reduced number of visitors to the city.

“Even if the county owned it, we would still benefit from the HOT money,” Tudyk said.

Representatives from the county and the city will meet periodically to negotiate terms before bringing the trade back before the commissioners’ next meeting on Aug. 22.

dakota@thepicayune.com