Archived Story

Column: How we can fund the new grandstand

Published 10:04am Wednesday, April 10, 2013

“Build it and they will come,” is a kind of promise and challenge that we have heard as applied to the erection of buildings and the development of projects and businesses. Will this kind of promise, a mandate, materialize in the building of a new grandstand on the Mower County Fairgrounds?

The clarification and emerging plans are as follows: Understand please, the decision-making process and personnel that are recommending a project that is supported out of area citizens’ tax dollars. A reminder: Taxes paid in various ways support the personnel, program and property work of the county.

The persons developing or planning to replace a grandstand “condemned” by engineers and safety experts, for failing to meet basic standards, have, for over a year, evaluated history, needs, finances, and potential usage. Working in tandem with professional evaluations, two groups have made some proposals: The County Commissioner members, elected from geographical areas of Mower County, and a Fair Board. This board, a cross-section of citizens, is elected to manage, guide, create a budget, do the advertising, set guidelines for the use of property and programming. The responsibilities are within the framework of all mandates of city, county, and state bodies that set legal requirements.

The coordinator of the commissioners, Craig Oscarson, at its board meeting of Dec. 27, presented an update of the plans evolving for the building of a new grandstand. The financial projections are from a low-end to a more adequate, higher price range. The low-end is around $500,000. This amount would cover the demolition, already accomplished, preparation of the site, and erection of a new structure. A consensus has emerged that the lesser financial investment would provide for only 1,000 seats, which for some venues, would be inadequate. A greater financial commitment in the $800,000 range, would more adequately meet the long-term needs. To think in terms of the larger financial expenditure for seating of 2,000 persons, with all amenities, is, I believe, a wise projection.

As a citizen with input on behalf of others and myself, I’ve presented questions and shared ideas at three different board meetings. There are certain types of entertainment that appeal to a particular range of persons. That gives affirmation to this part of the interests of fair-goers!

The financial gap of $500,000, the monies currently budgeted by the commissioners (minimum) and possibly $800,000 for a more extensive project is yet being discussed.

The challenge to budgets, the here and now design by architects, the present economy that does give one more “bang for the buck,” and a structure that would provide for more of the kind of attractions the grandstand served in the past is a must. Certainly the venues should not pull events from the downtown area or compete with the planning which is now part of Vision 2020. Funding for expansion of year-round opportunities in the Austin downtown area is crucial.

A proposal: For just one summer, one fair season, there would be a charge for admission. A fee or 10-day pass would be required for the privilege of all the benefits of the splendid offerings of the Mower County Fair. A monetary contribution, similar to what other fairs ask of the attendees, would enable the building of a grandstand that would meet all the anticipated needs, now and for the future.

I repeat my first sentence: “Build it and they will come.” Don’t forget, Grandma was right when she said: “Harry, there is no such thing as a free lunch.” Grandad, hearing her truth, added: “If you pay a little for what you get, you’ll enjoy it even more!”

Marv Repinski is a member of Austin’s Housing and Redevelopment Authority (HRA) Board and an adjunct professor at Riverland Community College.

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