County seeking fairgrounds grants

Commissioners ask staff to pursue $425,000 from state outdoors fund

Big changes at the Mesa County Fairgrounds were set in motion with the adoption last year of a master plan, and the approval of two new grant applications provide a specific glimpse about what improvements are likely to happen sooner rather than later.

Mesa County commissioners on Monday gave the green light to pursue two state Great Outdoors Colorado grants — $350,000 for construction of a second covered arena and new RV hookups on the east end of the fairgrounds, and $75,000 for design and engineering of a new access road, parking and the new BMX track on the west end of the property.

“With the master plan now adopted, the discussion has really turned to looking at the best sequence for development,” Fairgrounds Manager Jo Carole Haxel told commissioners. “That’s pretty challenging, given the years of pent-up demand and all the excitement that we have generated (in the master plan process).”

Making the east end of the property — where equestrian and livestock facilities are heavily used and nearly maxed out — more of a regional center for big horse and livestock shows is on the fast track it seems.

Haxel called the plans there “pretty dramatic,” with an overall price tag of more than $2 million. If the $350,000 GOCO grant is approved later this year, construction of the new arena could begin as soon as fall 2013, with a completion date of early next year.

This is where the fairgrounds is seeing the biggest demand, Haxel said, as the current covered arena already is fully booked for the 2013 season.

The full-service RV hookups that are planned are essential for the new show attendees predicted to flock to the new facilities.

“Folks that are coming to these larger shows, with these expanded facilities, they’ll be staying three, four, five days at a time. They come with expensive horses, expensive rigs, and they leave a lot of money in our community, the studies show,” Haxel said.

On the west side of the 93-acre fairgrounds property, where a new stoplight and intersection is expected to be installed next year at U.S. Highway 50, the master plan calls for a new BMX track, enhancement of two parks, relocation of the Veterans Memorial Park, a new main entrance road and improved circulation routes, a loop trail, a dog park, and better parking, as well as improved infrastructure.

The grant being applied for will go to design and engineer of many of these project features. Total design and engineering costs are expected to be just shy of $160,000, and the GOCO grant will cover nearly half that.

County funds used to meet the rest of the project costs are dedicated via the county’s Capital Improvement Plan. Voters many years ago decided to set aside a certain portion of sales tax revenues to directly fund capital projects, like what’s planned at the fairgrounds. 

If the grant for the west end is awarded, design and engineering there could begin as early as this summer. Construction on the west end isn’t expect until 2015 or 2016, Haxel said.

Not addressed in the initial grant applications are expansion plans in the central event core of the property, where the outdated grandstands now are located. The adopted master plan includes the concept of building a massive new events center and exposition hall. But that ambitious part of the plan seems very far off at this point.

“We see that in the future as something that could enhance both the activities on both the east and the west, as well as bringing a real bona fide events center and exposition facility to the Grand Valley,” Haxel said.

Built in the 1940s, the Mesa County Fairgrounds each year typically hosts about 500 activities that draw more than 250,000 attendees.


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If the improvements are so good for business, why is the County putting in RV hookups that directly compete with the KOA next door?

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