Clark County Fairgrounds buildings may get $100K in upgrades

Fairgrounds Director Dean Blair requested $50,000 Wednesday from Clark County commissioners to match a state grant to pay for the improvements.

The renovations would be made to the four main structures at the fairgrounds — the mercantile, youth, annex, and arts and crafts buildings. The work would include updated drop ceilings in all four buildings, as well as water heaters and hand dryers to eliminate the use of paper towels, Blair said.

“It would be a systematic step into an ultimate plan we have for those buildings,” said Blair, who replaced longtime Director Allan Hess last month.

Clark County commissioners were supportive of the expenditure and asked staff members to begin writing a contract for the project.

The improvements would also allow the fairgrounds to continue to book major tourism events, such as the Springfield Antiques Extravaganza and the Cars & Parts Swap Meet and Car Show, both of which had record crowds this year.

“It will allow us to continue to rent the buildings with a prettier look and a more modern look to other people,” Blair said.

The fairgrounds wrote a grant proposal to the Ohio Department of Agriculture, which is expected to be awarded in a few weeks, Blair said.

“If we don’t have a matching grant, we don’t get ODA’s grant of $50,000,” Blair said.

Earlier this year, fair board members were split on whether to keep or tear down the buildings at the fairgrounds, Blair said. After a study, board members decided to renovate and maintain the buildings rather than spend millions on a new multipurpose building — with hopes of possibly constructing a new building in the future.

“We’d still love to have a new multipurpose building someday if the cards allow that, and the moon and the stars line up for that,” he said.

A concept drawing for a new $4.5 million building, similar to one built in Louisville, was recently shown to the commission, Commissioner Rick Lohnes said.

Fair officials began in 2001 developing a 25-year master plan that includes adding buildings, a front gate redesign and other major upgrades. The plan must be updated and capital improvement money must be earmarked in next year’s budget to plan for those upgrades in the future.

Since taking over, Blair has worked to solidify new partnerships, including with the Ohio Equine and Agricultural Association that operates the Champions Center. He’s also considering asking commissioners to begin selling beer at the fair.

The fairgrounds has received about $500,000 in capital improvement money over the past two years, Clark County Commissioner John Detrick said. Commissioners recently approved plans last week to invest nearly $200,000 into fairgrounds renovations, which included roof and concrete repairs on some buildings.

The tourism dollars are key to the community and cause a ripple effect for hotels and restaurants, Detrick said.

The fairgrounds will use local contractors on the upcoming projects, Blair said

“It’s our intent to try and spread things around and do things right here in this county anytime we possibly can,” Blair said.

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