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Demolition of fairgrounds hangars to provide more parking

Staff members at the Clark County Fairgrounds have completed the demolition of two deteriorating aircraft hangars, a project that will help create more parking and access for other events at the site.

The demolition of the hangars, near the entrance at the east end of the fairgrounds, was part of a project that also included the construction of a new maintenance facility near the Champions Center.

“They were old metal buildings and they needed maintenance, but the main reason was to clean up the front of the fairgrounds,” said Allan Hess, executive director of the Clark County Agricultural Society, which maintains the fairgrounds.

While it is not related to the demolition project, tearing down the two hangars will also make the site more attractive for potential developers, Hess said.

The Agricultural Society and other local officials have discussed construction of a new hotel at the fairgrounds, which could provide lodging for visitors who attend events at that site. However, Hess said that project is still in the preliminary stages. He said the Agricultural Society is working with a real estate group to help find an investor who might be willing to build at the site.

The hangars had previously been used to store equipment for the electrical and grounds crews at the fairgrounds. But demolishing them will create more space for parking and make it easier to host large events at the site. Hess said the fairgrounds crew was able to do the work, and after the scrap is recycled the only expenses will include labor and fuel.

He said the fairgrounds will likely break even financially, and possibly come out slightly ahead now that the project is complete.

“We emptied them all out and it was just a matter of tearing the metal structure down,” he said.

Meanwhile, local officials are gathering information about the events hosted at the fairgrounds and attendance figures to help show that there is demand for a hotel.

“A hotel that would cater specifically to events at the Clark County Fairgrounds is going to be the next logical step,” said Chris Schutte, director of marketing and the convention and visitor’s bureau for the Greater Springfield Chamber of Commerce.

He pointed to recent statistics that showed Springfield’s occupancy rate increased by more than 11 percent last year, compared to 2012. Schutte said a hotel has been a part of the master plan for the fairgrounds for years, but the challenge is finding a developer who has an interest and sees a need at the site.

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