Lincoln County’s Fair Board learned this week that their fairgrounds expansion feasibility study will be coming along just in time. Buildings at the fairgrounds are old and deteriorating, but they also learned that the buildings will last at least another five years. That should give them enough time to carefully weigh their options on the future of the fairgrounds whether it’s a fairgrounds expansion, a major convention center, expo center or a combination of the three. Whatever the outcome the taxpayers will likely be asked to approve some kind of funding stream for the expansion – and that is likely to include a tax override bond election.
Members of the Fair Board say the only reason to take the fairgrounds to the next level would be to give the local economy a boost in that it would attract many groups, organizations, businesses and major event promoters to the Central Coast and thereby substantially increase tourism and the dollars it brings. They say it’s not to compete with the hotels and convention facilities in the county but rather to grow total tourism numbers so all facilities benefit.
The price tag of a transformed Lincoln County Fairgrounds isn’t known since they don’t have a specific plan to look at. They’re still working on it with a consultant. They remain in the needs assessment phase and will be meeting with Lincoln County residents and civic leaders in Newport, Lincoln City, Waldport and Toledo to hear what they want in a fairgrounds/convention center/expo sort of arrangement. Those meetings are coming up in the next few months with a final report to the Fair Board sometime this summer as to what might be presented to the voters.
In the meantime, the condition of the fairgrounds events center was discussed – mainly leaky roof and powder post beetles. County Public Works Director Jim Buisman says he will conduct a thorough inspection of the problems with an expert but that he doesn’t expect to do anything more costly than simple patches and minor repairs. He says they’ll be inspecting the building after every major storm that buffets the building with high winds and rain. He says the event center was very well built, albeit a long time ago – but it’s holding up structurally quite well. However, the building is a lot more than just support beams and that’s why it doesn’t pencil out to make major repairs, says Buisman. A consensus of Fair Board members seemed okay with the idea of maintaining the events center in a low cost manner pending a decision by the voters on the future of the fairgrounds itself.