The Stark County Park Board on Thursday unanimously approved the purchase of a $1.73 million plot of land for the future “Badlands Events Center.”

The board approved the purchase agreement for the roughly 87 acres being sold by Dean and Shirley Meyer about two-and-a-half miles south of Dickinson during a special meeting. The money is coming from existing funds the county fair and park boards have from land sales in the past few years, said park board Vice Chair Frank Klein.

The agreement is the most progress made after 25 years of planning and multiple purchase plans that fell through.

“It’s unreal,” said Arnie Binek, chair of the park board. “... Something’s finally going forward.”

One of the first steps will be to move the rodeo arena from the DSU campus to the new location, Binek said.

“Hopefully this summer we can get the dirt moved, get the area ready for an arena set up,” he said.

According to the purchase agreement, the property is going to be used for “a fairgrounds and multi-purpose events complex” that will mutually benefit the park board, Dickinson State University, the DSU Alumni and Foundation, the DSU rodeo program, the Stark County Fair Board, the Roughrider Commission and others in southwestern North Dakota.

Ultimately, the entities envision the outdoor arena and an indoor facility, which will allow Dickinson to host events year-round, DSU Foundation CEO Kevin Thompson said in an interview.

The board allocated about $300,000 through the foundation about a year ago for a feasibility study and other planning steps that involved all the interested parties, Thompson said.

“That money was used for paying engineers and, you know, doing all of the survey work and that type of thing,” Binek said, “and doing some master plan stuff.”

The study also confirmed the need for a year-round event venue in town, Thompson said.

With the foundation involved, people will also be able to donate funds earmarked for the project.

“As far as the foundation, the foundation is the real funneling group for any kind of donations that come in that want to come in through the college,” Binek said at the meeting, according to a  recording.

The land is just outside of town along Highway 22, on the way to Dickinson’s airport near the Eldorado Acres community.

“Here we got a good piece of land right along 22 out there that I think will be good access and, at the same time, out of town,” Binek said.

The deal also leaves open the possibility of purchasing two other lots, 40 acres to the east or 40 acres to the south.

“Say, for some reason, this thing really expands and we decide that we need more land,” Klein said. “We would have two years to buy that land for this current price that we purchased today.”

At the meeting, county commissioner Pete Kuntz asked why the board needs so much land. Binek replied that with horse trailers and associated rodeo equipment, “you don’t have enough” space with any less.

An LLC will be formed soon with representatives from all the entities involved, but the park board will be the actual owner of the land.