Clark County Fairgrounds to get $50K grant to re-brand

The Clark County Convention Facilities Authority will move ahead with a plan to provide $50,000 in funding to re-brand the Clark County Fairgrounds.

But board members said at a meeting Thursday they had reservations about other proposals to provide funding to the Master Gardeners of Clark County and the Springfield Museum of Art. They tabled discussions on those two projects until they can gather more information.

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The 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. Representatives from the museum, the Master Gardeners and the fairgrounds each attended the meeting to pitch their projects to the CFA.

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The CFA board previously approved funding for a plan to re-brand the fairgrounds as Champions Park. But Chuck Ingle, CFA president, said there was some confusion over how the money should be spent.

Dean Blair, director of the Clark County Fairgrounds, provided an outline saying about $20,000 would be spent on banners that would improve the look of the fairgrounds and make it easier for visitors to park and find their cars at crowded events.

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The remaining $30,000 would be spent on a variety of initiatives, including designing a new logo, updating websites and social media pages, administrative costs and purchasing billboards to drive traffic to the fairgrounds.

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

“We want to try and get the most bang for the buck with your dollars,” Blair said.

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Pamela Bennett, of the Master Gardeners, and Ann Fortescue, director of the Springfield Museum of Art, gave brief presentations for funding requests. The Master Gardeners are seeking $50,000 from the CFA as part of a roughly $92,000 project to build a pavilion that would be a centerpiece of their efforts to to transform a former golf course into the Snyder Park Gardens and Arboretum.

Bennett said the project would allow the gardens to host weddings and other events, and said the project has the potential to attract 40,000 visitors a year as the gardens are developed.

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“When we get to that point and it’s fully funded, we can reach that capacity,” Bennett said.

However, CFA Board Chairman Charles Ingle said it’s not clear how many overnight stays the garden project would generate and he wanted more information about how much it would cost annually to maintain the pavilion.

Fortescue pitched a proposal for a $250,000 grant from the CFA as part of a nearly $6 million renovation project at the museum. She said about $2.2 million has been committed so far, and about half of the total raised would be used for an endowment. The CFA money would be used to toward replacing the museum’s roof and heating and air conditioning system.

“We are one of the key reasons Springfield is an attractive place to live and locate a business,” Fortescue said.

Board members said the museum project is a worthwhile plan, but said the request was expensive and wanted to see the museum make more progress toward raising money for the project.

“It’s a lot of money,” Ingle said. “I’d like to see them a little further along in their commitment before we commit but that’s just me.”

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