SIDNEY — Visitors to the 2016 Shelby County Fair could be sitting on rented bleachers during the demoliton derby, horse races, cheerleading contest and other events.
The Shelby County Agricultural Society (Fair Board) voted Jan. 20 to tear down the 1,500-seat grandstand at the fair grounds before spring.
A campaign to fund a new grandstand began Tuesday. If not enough money is raised in time for a stadium to be constructed before the 2016 fair, the board will rent bleachers as a stop-gap measure until there is enough money to build a new grandstand.
“(The existing grandstand) needs a lot of work,” said board Secretary Jerry Schaffner. “The price of getting it up to code is $275,000.” It’s not in danger of collapsing; however, grandstand regulations have changed in the years since it was built and insurers are requiring that upgrades be made. For instance, between the seats are open spaces through which small children could fall. Those spaces would have to closed.
“They wanted us to (upgrade) it last year, but I didn’t do it,” Schaffner said. That’s because the fair board thought up to $500,000 in state money would be available for a new grandstand. But then the legislature axed that provision in the annual state budget. Schaffner won’t know until early March whether the fair’s insurance company will refuse to insure or raise premium rates if something isn’t done to address code violations this year.
“This isn’t something we decided overnight. It’s been talked about for a long time,” Schaffner said of the decision to demolish the structure.
Fair board members plan to raze the grandstand themselves, so there will be no demolition costs. The wood debris will probably be burned, but there is some steel that could be sold for scrap.
“If there’s someone out there who would like to take it down for the metal, I would consider that,” Schaffner said. No date has yet been set to start the destruction; although the secretary said that if the grandstand is going to come down at the hands of the fair board, it will have to be done before they — farmers all — must get into their fields for spring planting.
The cost to rent bleachers for the week of fair will be about $3,600.
The goal of the campaign for a new grandstand is $1.2 million. That would pay for a 2,000-seat stadium with a roof, including grounds preparation, electrical wiring within the grandstand and lights around the track.
“However, we can scale that back if not enough money is raised,” he added. The high-end facility would be a draw for non-fair events to come into Sidney and add rental monies to fairgrounds coffers, Schaffner said. No such events rent the fairgrounds now, so no income will be lost if the use of rented bleachers is necessary for a time.
The board hopes that they won’t be necessary for long.
“How many fairgrounds do you know that don’t have a grandstand?” Schaffner asked.
In other business, the fair board:
• Approved a budget of $490,000 for the 2016 fair.
• Approved a theme for the 2016 fair: “Shelby County — A Grand Idea.” This is the first time that the Shelby County Fair will have a theme; although other fairs have made it a regular practice.
• Voted to contract with Smash-It Derbies, of London, Ohio, to run the demolition derby at the 2016 fair. The firm manages such events at 21 other county fairs in Ohio. The board hopes this different management team will attract more cars to the derby and more spectators to the grandstand than have been involved in recent fairs.
• Voted to construct a sandbox-type play area, using an agricultural theme, in Babyland, in which children who are too young to go on rides can play.
• Voted to run a coloring contest for young children. Entries will be displayed at the fair.
• Heard a report that 37 beef steers, 15 dairy steers and six beef heifers were weighed in on Jan. 17.
• Discussed a new Ohio Department of Agriculture (ODA) ruling concerning family entries in the fair. The ruling was misinterpreted and misreported at an earlier meeting. The board called for clarification by the ODA.
• Decided to set up a QR code so people with smart phones can use them to visit the fair website.
Reach the writer at 937-538-4824. Follow her on Twitter @PASpeelmanSDN.