My drive to work isn't what it used to be. When I first started at the Record Star in 2006, the Richard M. Borchard Regional Fairgrounds was nothing more than a large piece of land with some concrete spots here and there.
None of the buildings that are there now - the Central Pavilion Arena or Banquet Hall - were anywhere near being completed at the time.
Now, I'll be honest. When I came on board as a reporter, I knew nothing about the fairgrounds or its purpose. I didn't even know who Richard Borchard was and, in fact, thought he was someone who had passed away prior to the fairgrounds' construction.
It's amazing what a little reading and research can do, not to mention almost two years worth of coverage on my part.
I learned Richard Borchard is alive and well (I met him and shook his hand at the fairgrounds' grand opening last year) and was a former county judge for Nueces County that served from 1995 to 2003. I also learned that the fairgrounds seems to have been in the works for the better part of the last two decades, with talk on the issue picking up steam during Borchard's time in office.
However, it wasn't until Borchard's successor, Terry Shamsie, took over the county judge position that the fairgrounds became a reality. The decision to use Certificates of Obligation, which do not require voter approval, immediately made the multi-million dollar project controversial before the first shovel broke ground.
Fairgrounds Field opened in 2003 to much fanfare as the Coastal Bend Aviators began play there, but the arrival of the Corpus Christi Hooks, a AA-minor league affiliate of the Houston Astros, two years later seemed destined to doom the fairgrounds' independent league baseball team.
It didn't help that the Aviators were awful to watch and had a knack for falling apart down the stretch of a season. Meanwhile, the Hooks won the Texas League Championship in just their second year in existence. With paltry attendance and a sub-par team, the county decided in November to part ways with the team.
In fact, that moment put a cap on an eventful year for the fairgrounds. It was revealed that the county illegally awarded contracts for the construction of the banquet hall, Central Pavilion Arena, Equestrian Center and the Heritage Center arena after a lawsuit filed by Fulton CoastCon claimed state law was not followed in the awarding of the Heritage Center contract.
A later lawsuit from local businessman Dusty Durrill put the Heritage Center on hiatus and its future is now uncertain. A feasibility study must be performed and public hearings held to determine the need for the facility, but no timetable has been given on when that might take place.
Now, as I drive past the fairgrounds, I don't see a group of buildings. I see a series of events. Events, good or bad, that are now a part of this county's history. Sure, there have been some obvious blunders that have probably eliminated a lot of goodwill towards the county among its taxpayers, but it seems like current County Judge Loyd Neal and the commissioners are working hard to rectify a lot of the mistakes made during Shamsie's tenure.
Let's just hope we all look back on this year as a turning point, one in which history did not repeat itself.