Fairgrounds get $50k to rebrand site as Champions Park

6:00 a.m. Wednesday, Jan. 17, 2018 Business

The Clark County Fairground will get a $50,000 grant to pay to rebrand one of the top tourist attractions in Clark County.

The Clark County Convention Facilities Authority is funded by local hotel bed taxes and is tasked with supporting projects that lead to more overnight stays and tourism in Clark County. It will give the fairgrounds a one-time payment to be used to cover costs associated with rebranding the fairgrounds as Champions Park, said John Maurer, vice chairman of the CFA.

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The rebranding project fits the authority’s mission because most of the overnight stays in Clark County can be attributed to the fairgrounds, Maurer said.

The grant could cover items such as new signage, costs for websites, literature and other promotional materials.

“The fairgrounds and Champions Center generates 65 percent of all the overnight stays in Clark County,” Maurer said.

The economic impact of tourism in Clark County was about $395 million in 2016, according to the Greater Springfield Convention and Visitor’s Bureau.

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The fairgrounds had previously submitted a request for additional funding, fairground Executive Director Dean Blair said.

The site will still be known as the fairgrounds but the new branding will allow it to better market itself for state and national events, he said. For example, an event might be pitched as being hosted at Champions Park, home of the historic Clark County Fairgrounds.

The money from the CFA will be a good start toward rebranding the site, Blair said.

The venue is a good fit for a variety of events, Blair said. But in the past it’s been hard to convince some event organizers to host their activities there because of a perception of what a fairgrounds looks like in some other counties, he said.

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“What we found is if we can get someone here, we usually close the deal,” Blair said.

It’s not clear exactly how the $50,000 will be spent, but he said it could include projects like banners lining the entrance to the fairgrounds to make the site more attractive and make it easier for guests to find their vehicles in the parking areas.

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The Clark County Convention Facilities Authority also received an update last week from officials at Wittenberg University, who are in the midst of a roughly $40.5 million overhaul of the university’s athletic facilities, a project they expect to attract youth sports and other events to the region.

Last year the authority agreed to provide $75,000 per year from 2018 to 2022 to assist Wittenberg with the project.

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The CFA also continues to review a request from the Master Gardeners of Clark County, which has started a fundraising campaign for its $360,000 first phase of work to transform a former golf course into the Snyder Park Gardens and Arboretum.

The Master Gardeners are seeking $50,000 from the authority to assist that project but some CFA members wanted more information about how the Master Gardeners plan to use the arboretum to attract more overnight stays.

CFA board members continue to work with the Master Gardeners to gather more information about the proposed project, Maurer said.