The Clark County Fairgrounds at Champions Park will spend about $170,000 this spring to make improvements to its facilities, including installing air conditioning at one of its buildings, which officials say will allow it to bring more events to Springfield.
The fairgrounds and Champions Center account for half of Clark County’s local event attendees, a majority of which visit from out of town and create significant economic impact, according to the the Greater Springfield Convention and Visitor’s Bureau. The economic impact of tourism in Clark County was about $395 million in 2016, according to bureau reports.
The fairgrounds will spend about $125,000 to install air conditioning at the Mercantile Building, Executive Director Dean Blair said. The project is expected to begin immediately and will be completed before the fair begins in late July.
The project will be completed in pieces, Blair said. The fairgrounds must first replace some electrical components, including transformers and telephone poles.
The air conditioning will allow for the fairgrounds to retain and attract more events, he said. When recruiting for new events, he said certain shows won’t consider the site because it doesn’t have air conditioning.
“Frankly, if we don’t have something to offer, it’s an automatic disqualifier,” Blair said. “You don’t even get the opportunity to pursue that show. To continue to be in the game and not lose that we have anything we have currently, it’s important we have air conditioning available.”
The Youth Building also will receive about $46,000 in repairs, including a new canopy and new roof on the restroom wing and junior fair wing, Blair said. The canopy at the Youth Building is structurally unsound, he said.
“If we were to get a heavy snow load, there’s a pretty good chance that it might not survive it,” Blair said.
The shingle roofs on the the restroom and junior fair wings are starting to deteriorate and will be replaced with metal roofing, he said. The project will start immediately and is also expected to be completed before the fair.
Clark County commissioners approved Tuesday about $186,000 for the fairgrounds to make the improvements.
“We’re very appreciative,” Blair said.
The fairgrounds also recently received a $50,000 grant from the Clark County Convention Facilities Authority to be used to cover costs associated with re-branding the fairgrounds as Champions Park. 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, Blair said.
The Champions Park has four separate areas, including the fairgrounds, Champions Center, the cross country course and the lake.
The grant could be used to cover items such as new signage, costs for websites, literature and other promotional materials.
If any money is left over from the other projects, the fair board will look to replace the roof on one of its barns, he said. Currently about seven roofs need to be replaced, Blair said.
While the fairgrounds is working on a plan to modernize the fairgrounds, he said it must first stabilize its current buildings.
“There’s quite a few things that need to be done to get everything up to par and get everything where it will last for many decades to come before we can really start into modernization mode,” he said.
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