EARLY — The ongoing $1 million Early Travel and Tourism Center project has a new completion date following months of announced delays.

City officials did not elaborate on the cause of the delays, but say they have a targeted move in date of Feb. 19.

“Hopefully this time next year we can have our Christmas party in the event center,” said Mayor Robert Mangrum while announcing a Nov. 27 city council meeting and annual tree lighting.

Nearly one year ago city councilmen approved a $1,194,162 bid by Waldrop Construction for the project. Workers are currently installing the drywall, fencing and various other cosmetic additions.

“There is more concrete to be poured. The fence needs to go up. The sheet rock needs to go up …. We’re excited. February 19 is our targeted move in date” said Early Travel and Convention Director Denise Hudson in an announcement via the Visit Early Texas Facebook page.

Last spring city officials gave a tour of the facility, which Early Assistant City Administrator Larry McConn said would be a multi-use facility serving everything from the aforementioned Christmas party to farmer’s markets and various other events.

“It’s going to be about 5,000 square feet under the roof, and the court yard is somewhere around 20,000 square foot, which is all useable space,” said Early assistant administrator Larry McConn while giving a tour of the facility in May. “We will have sound systems throughout and we’re looking at using it for anything from movie nights to annual meetings, corporate meetings and things like that. We’re trying to get the school involved for Project Graduations and there has been a farmer’s market interested in [operating] every weekend in the summer ... It’s very multi-use. It’s going to be a great facility as we move forward. It’s not going to be anything like the coliseum. It’s an intimate setting for business meetings and fundraising type events.”

Another ancillary benefit to the new visitor and event center is that it will give the Early Travel and Convention Bureau a new, permanent home. The ETCB currently operates inside the Early Business Small Business Incubator, sharing office space with the Early Chamber of Commerce and other public and private entities. The property the future visitor and event center sits on was previously owned by the Lions Club. Another future client for the visitor and event center is Early ISD, who expressed interest in holding the Early High School prom in the new building this spring. During the Early City Council’s August meeting, Aaron said once construction wraps the next issue the city will tackle is the parking outside the facility, which he said was limited.

“I’ve already been contacted by the prom committee and they’re wanting to have prom there next year,” Aaron said. “We should be there and in that discussion we already started talking about parking. We know parking is going to be an issue and we will deal with that with future plans for parking. We’re really excited and if you haven’t had a chance to stop by it’s beautiful.”