A big vision for fairgrounds

Events center, expo hall discussed

FAIR_FINAL

There’s no shortage of ambition in a draft plan to revitalize the facilities at the Mesa County Fairgrounds — with the idea of a 5,000-seat multiuse event center, a new exposition hall and an expanded BMX track at the top of the preliminary wish list being presented this week by a consultant group.

The detailed market analysis and business plan was compiled after meetings with hundreds of stakeholders and special-interest groups. The concrete ideas laid out by the consultants are intended to be a jumping-off point for an anticipated new master planning of the fairgrounds.

“You have so much to offer once you get to this side of the state. You can draw from a much larger area than other communities,” Susan Sieger, president of Tampa, Fla.-based Crossroads Consulting Services, said in a briefing with county commissioners Tuesday.

“Also, we have a lot of other attractions here in the area that people will utilize if they’re here for the fairgrounds,” added Commissioner Steve Acquafresca.

It’s the possible indirect regional benefits and spending that make improvements at the fairgrounds attractive to the county, among other reasons. Consultants pegged the annual economic impact of the plan — though the number is an estimate this early in the process, with a host of assumptions — between $11.7 million and $14.2 million.

Projections show an estimated employment boost of 160 to 190 jobs.

The price tag for all the new facilities envisioned won’t be cheap. Building a 5,000-seat main event arena with enough floor space to accommodate horse and livestock as well as other specialty sporting events could cost around $16.5 million, a figure based on a comparison of similar facilities.

A 25,000-square-foot climate-controlled expo hall and other meeting room facilities was estimated at $4 million, again based on average costs of similar halls recently built.

An expansion of current equestrian and livestock facilities — labeled as a high priority in the analysis — would include a new covered arena ($1.4 million) and a number of new barns that likely would cost $700,000 each.

An expansion of the BMX track also was highly considered by the consultants. They estimated a new open-air track costing around $800,000.

All of the big-ticket items in the plan are envisioned to be located in the narrower eastern area of the fairgrounds, where in 2010 new equestrian facilities were built, including a 75-stall stable and an improved covered arena.

Success derived from that project led to the idea of further expansion there to draw more large regional equestrian events to the fairgrounds, filling a perceived void in the market.

If a master plan process moves forward, and the consultants’ ideas are pursued, the overall plan is intended to be carried out in phases, rather than all at once.

Money for improvements would come from the county’s capital fund, which earmarks money specifically for new projects. The 2013 capital plan includes $2 million for improvements at the fairgrounds, but commissioners can reallocate money from the fund if they feel the community is pushing them in one direction or another.

It will be up to future boards of county commissioners — there will be two new commissioners starting in January — to decide at what speed they want to proceed, if at all.

County Commissioner Janet Rowland, whose term expires this year, expressed concern about the plans, especially about the most ambitious idea of building an arena-type facility.

“I’m sure the same level of excitement was there with the Avalon — and now that’s become a money pit,” Rowland said. “I don’t want to create a money pit for future boards and future taxpayers to have to subsidize. That’s what worries me.”

The long process of potentially putting ideas of ink and paper into concrete begins this week, though, with the unveiling of the consultants’ report.

All the specifics of the analysis and plan will be laid bare at a public open house tonight at 6 at the fairgrounds, 2785 U.S. Highway 50.

If the county decides to move ahead full-steam with a master planning process, additional public meetings are slated for October and November.



COMMENTS

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I hope to make it to the additional public meetings.

Personally, I think it is a good idea to find additional ways to use the Fairgrounds, especially if it would make it possible for them to remain a community facillity that is self supporting through events. I am so frustrated to have to miss this meeting. I look forward to hearing more about these proposals.

Ms. Rowland, you did not seem to be concerned about any “money pit” problem when you voted to spend over $800,000 to improve the equestrian area a couple of years ago, why the change now. I am sure many groups and “special interests” were eager to chime in with opinions favorable to the projects being proposed. What do they stand to lose? Nothing at all of course, as they would have NO investment in it at all. It will be the saps (taxpayers) who believe the garbage being spewed by those with a vested interest in the project. It is those same saps who will foot the bill for the 160 to 190 new jobs, which surely will include very generous benefits forever.

You can bet there will be no discussion of the real reason for doing this because they know that it would never get past the voters and taxpayers if the truth were known. The commissioners were polled about the race track/casino possibility earlier and at least 2 of them agreed to vote for it. The law as it was proposed last year had the clause that allowed 2/3 of the governing board to make the decision WITHOUT the consent of the voters. That bill did not come out of committee before the session ended, but you can bet that it will be brought up again as soon as possible.

Yes, sir, build it up, make it a real asset at taxpayer expense, then sell it off for track and casino.  Mr. Seymour (Arapahoe Park Race Track owner) should have to pay for any and all improvements he wants done AFTER he takes over the property.

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