Archived Story

The countdown: Top stories of 2012, No. 15-6

Published 11:43am Monday, December 31, 2012

8. The county board votes to burn down condemned grandstand

The grandstand at the Mower County fairgrounds was been deemed unsafe by a structural engineer. County commissioners decided to allow the Austin Fire Department to use it for a controlled burn. -- Herald file photo

A grand problem surfaced just weeks before the 2012 Mower County Fair.

The fair’s grandstand, built in 1938, was condemned as a structural engineer deemed it unsafe for use, but temporary bleachers were used to keep events going as planned in 2012.

After the structure’s deficiencies proved to be extensive and costly to repair, the county board voted to demolish the structure, which is targeted to be done through a controlled burn by the Austin Fire Department early next year.

The board is already discussing plans to have a new structure in place by the 2013 fair. Last week, the county board assigned $500,000 to build a new structure. Work will likely begin this spring.

County officials say preliminary estimates for a 1,000-seat grandstand with a roof, seat-backs and a small press box would run about $428,000, with a 1,500-seat grandstand costing about $620,000 and a 2,000-seat structure running about $813,000. County Coordinator Craig Oscarson told the board of commissioners that the Mower County Fair Board was looking to build at least a 1,500-seat grandstand to replace the old one.

While the board hasn’t wavered from its decision to demolish the structure, a small group of residents has voiced opposition. Marv Repinksi, chairman of the Austin Housing and Redevelopment board, offered HRA funds to help repair the current grandstand and on multiple occasions urged the board not to demolish the structure.

—By Jason Schoonover

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