Archived Story

Foundation grant to help fund grandstand

Published 5:15pm Wednesday, April 17, 2013

The Mower County fair and county boards received grand news earlier this week.

The Hormel Foundation has agreed to give a $275,000 grant to partially fund the new grandstand at the Mower County Fairgrounds.

“We’re just really grateful that they chose to participate in this,” said County board Chairman Jerry Reinartz.

For the fair board, a grant is great news after a whirlwind year. The Austin Fire Department demolished the old grandstand in a controlled burn Feb. 2. A structural engineer had deemed it unsafe shortly before the 2012 after dry rot was discovered in the wood base. Temporary bleachers were used to keep the grandstand events going as planned last year.

Now, less than a year later, the fair board has its long-term solution.

“It’s a big relief for us,” said director Neal Anderson.

The Hormel Foundation grant is the last piece of the puzzle to fund the new 1,500-seat structure to replace the old grandstand.

The grandstand — which will be made of steel and aluminum — should be completed by Aug. 1, if not before, according to Anderson.

“It means that we’ll be able to get the structure that we need for the fair in place in time for the fair,” he said.

John Gray, assistant secretary-treasurer for the Hormel Foundation, said the Foundation board saw the project as a good investment for the community.

“The Foundation board … really felt that this fit the need of the community and would help improve, generally speaking, the quality of life of its residents,” Gray said.

The Foundation approved the funds with stipulations. It wants the county and fair boards to formulate a plan to increase the usage of the grandstands, especially outside fair week. The county and fair boards must also report back annually to the foundation over the next five years about the usage of the grandstand.

“We want to make sure that those grandstands are used more than a couple times a year,” Gray said.

He added foundation members are very optimistic that the boards’ plan to increase use will be successful.

County and fair board members are looking to use the funds from the Foundation to make the grandstand more appealing to hosting events. Reinartz said the extra funding will allow for the grandstand to be a multi-purpose facility with events scheduled throughout the year.

“It would get a lot more use over the nice weather season,” Reinartz said.

In the last few years, the fair has hosted other events at the grandstand, and Anderson said they’re looking to bring in more concerts, races and livestock events.

“We’re hoping to expand on that,” he said.

Most of the costs will come from the county and taxpayers, as the board previously allocated $500,000 to build the grandstand as part of the county’s 2013 budget.

On April 2, the county board accepted a bid of about $600,000 — about $20,000 under budget — from Seating and Athletic Facility Enterprises LLC of Ellendale for part of the construction costs to build a 1,500-seat grandstand during its Tuesday board meeting. The county requested $275,000 from the Hormel Foundation to help build a 1,500-seat grandstand rather than a 1,000-seat grandstand in the hopes of the structure being more than just a one week a year facility.

The $600,000 bid is only for part of the project. The 1,500-seat grandstand’s total cost was previously estimated at $776,000, while a 1,000-seat grandstand would cost about $553,500. To make the structure more appealing to host other events, the board will spend an estimated $155,000 for electrical and infrastructure, $12,500 for safety barriers and $17,500 for security fencing and other features.

The grandstand will likely be fabricated in Texas, before being shipped to Austin and assembled. Crews are currently working to finish the cleanup at the site after February’s burn, and there will be soil samples taken before the foundation is built.

The new grandstand will have backed seats and a roof similar to the old grandstand, though the roof will be a bit smaller, according to Anderson. Overall, the new structure’s seating will be a bit smaller than the old grandstand, which could seat an estimated 2,000.

Gray said this is a bit of a unique grant, because the Foundation has not funded many county projects in the past. However, the city of Austin is already a supported organization and the Foundation has given funds to city projects like the Austin Public Library construction. Gray said the Foundation board is hoping this project will be the basis for a positive partnership going forward.

“This is a first between us and the county per se,” Gray said.

Gray said Foundation leaders hope to work together with the county in the future, and the leaders hope the county will support other projects like Vision 2020.

Reinartz said the project is a reminder how lucky the community is to have the Hormel Foundation.

“Im very happy with that,” Reinartz said of the grant. “I’m grateful for them for looking at that as a worthy cause.”

Anderson also thanked the Hormel Foundation and county board for all the support to the project.

“Hopefully, it will be something that the community can be proud of and everyone can enjoy,” he said.

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