Less than a year after a devastating fire destroyed the storied Blue Grass Stockyards in Lexington, work has started on a new state-of-the-art building on Iron Works Pike in north Fayette County near the Scott County line.
“The entire Blue Grass family is excited that the day has finally come that we can begin our recovery and start down the path of getting this important and historic business operational,” said Jim Akers, the stockyards’ chief operating officer.
Akers, Lexington Mayor Jim Gray, U.S. Rep. Andy Barr, Kentucky Agriculture Commissioner Ryan Quarles and other business and agriculture officials spoke Friday at the ceremonial groundbreaking for the stockyards, which will include an educational center to teach students about the cattle industry.
The Fayette County Board of Adjustment voted unanimously in March to approve the Iron Works site for a 190,000-square-foot sales pavilion that will also have a 40,000-square-foot office and retail space. Some in Scott County had raised questions about whether runoff from the site would contaminate groundwater. Stockyards officials have said the new pavilion is not on the aquifer that drains into the Scott County water supply and say environmental controls will be in place.
The stockyards have long been an economic engine for Kentucky’s agriculture industry. At seven locations in Kentucky and online, Blue Grass sells about $600 million in cattle each year, “the largest cattle market group east of the Mississippi River,” Gray said. “Blue Grass Stockyards is to cattle what Keeneland is to thoroughbreds. It has been part of our community for 70 years and we’re proud it’s staying in Lexington.”
Excavation of the site had already begun prior to Friday’s ceremonial groundbreaking.
A massive fire caused by sparks from construction equipment destroyed the Forbes Road pavilion in late January. Plans are for the stockyard to open at its new location in August 2017.