Buffalo Trace gets approval for upgrade to visitor center

Renovation to bring new earnings, revenue, jobs

By Kevin Wheatley, Published:

The Kentucky Tourism Development Finance Authority approved tax incentives Wednesday for a $2.2 million renovation of the visitor center at Buffalo Trace Distillery.

The project will add space for dining, events, a private tasting room, marketing, media stations and the distillery’s gift shop, according to a report by Chicago real estate consultant Hunden Strategic Partners. Improvements at the visitor center will lead to $10.4 million in new spending, $3.4 million in employee earnings and $358,000 in net new tax revenue over a 10-year period. Seven new jobs will be created with the expansion.

Rob Hunden, president of Hunden Strategic Partners, said the updated and expanded space would improve pedestrian traffic at the facility and likely boost sales at the gift shop.

“There is this significant, unaccommodated demand,” Hunden said. “Folks that want to come and make a purchase, do a tour, but they also want to go and see all the other things, and the facilities can’t accommodate so many people coming at once and wanting to make a purchase.”

The authority’s approval gives the distillery a $554,000 tax rebate over a 10-year period, equal to a quarter of the $2.2 million construction costs, per the report. 

It also comes the same day Woodford Reserve christened its newly expanded visitor center, a $1.9 million investment.

Matt Higgins, Buffalo Trace’s visitor center manager, told the board the entire project could take up to two years to complete, though the gift shop should be finalized within six months of starting.

Bob Stewart, secretary of the Tourism, Arts and Heritage Cabinet, said Frankfort is “very strapped for venues” for various events, and he sees the expansion and renovation at Buffalo Trace as a positive opportunity for the city.

“The potential impact that’s going to have not just at Buffalo Trace but on the entire community is going to be dramatic,” Stewart said.

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