Demo likely for fair standsPublished 10:53am Friday, September 28, 2012
Commissioners: repairs too costly
The costs are likely too grand to repair one of the largest buildings at the Mower County Fairgrounds.
The county board is seeking quotes to demolish the grandstand after a structural engineer deemed it unsafe for use in July.
“It’s kind of out of the question to remodel the existing grandstand,” said Commissioner Jerry Reinartz, who sits on the county’s building committee with Commissioner Mike Ankeny.
After discussing the grandstand’s issues with the fair board, Ankeny said it’s almost certain the structure will be demolished because of high repair costs.
“It just doesn’t make sense,” Ankeny said of repairing the grandstand.
A rough estimate to repair the structural deficiencies topped $500,000, though Ankeny noted the board never sought official bids. That total did not include fixes to seating and other parts of the structure that don’t meet code, which Reinartz said could increase the initial estimate.
“It’s pretty likely that it will be demolished because it will be cost prohibitive to rebuild it,” Reinartz said. “It’s a matter of economics.”
Even if the board restored the structure, Reinartz said, they’d be left with something built in 1934.
“You’d still have an old grandstand,” he said.
The problems aren’t limited to code and structural integrity, as Reinartz said the fair board has found problems with the roof.
The building’s demolition won’t mean the end of grandstand events at the fair. Ankeny said he wants the demolition completed by spring, so the county board can try to get a new grandstand or other seating in place before the 2013 fair.
“Obviously we’d like to have it taken down sooner than later because of the fair issue next year,” he said.
The county board and fair board will continue discussing how to replace the grandstand; however, it’s possible the fair could utilize temporary bleachers like the ones used this year if a new structure is not finished by 2013, according to Reinartz.
Overall, fair board members were pleased with how temporary bleachers worked at the 2012 fair.
“We had 29 days to put something together, so in a matter of four weeks, the commissioners and county staff certainly sped up and put together a venue that was acceptable for this year,” said Neal Anderson, fair board president.
But the solution wasn’t perfect. Fencing and barriers used for safety limited visibility for some seats. The temporary bleachers also had no roof to protect against rain or the sun, so evening storms kept some people from events, according to fair officials.
Anderson said the grandstand issue is the most important task for 2013, as the boards discuss a permanent solution.
“We’re working on what our options are, what we can afford and what we need,” Anderson said. “We don’t need seating like Target Field. What we need is a manageable, nice venue for fair week and other events we attract throughout the year.”
If a new grandstand is built, Reinartz said, it would likely be smaller than the current structure. It would likely be located in the same spot facing the same way, according to Ankeny, who added companies have already expressed interest in building a new structure.
The county board is responsible to fund repairs at the fairgrounds, but commissioners have been working closely with the fair board.
“The fair board has been great to work with,” Ankeny said. “They’ve been very understanding.”
Reinartz said he and other commissioners would still like to hear opinions from the public, though he admitted he’s heard from few people so far.
Commissioner Tony Bennett admitted the news of the potential demolition may come as a shock to the public, but he said he envisions a solution that can be used for many events and be user friendly.
“I think the public might at first not like the idea, but hopefully you find a finished product eventually that people like,” he said.
Bennett said he has a hard time using tax dollars to fund projects at the fairgrounds, since it’s essentially for entertainment. He questioned whether it’s government’s role to fund such entertainment or allow taxpayers to keep their money. While Bennett said he leans toward letting people keep and spend their own money, he admitted other people will disagree with him.
“In the end it’s the taxpayers’ money, and they should let their commissioners know how they want it spent,” Bennett said.