WORK SESSION/COMMUNITY

DISCUSSION ON FUTURE OF FAIRGROUNDS

March 12, 2008

6:30 p.m.

Lane Events Center Meeting Room 1

Fairgrounds, Eugene

APPROVED 4/9/2008

 

Commissioner Faye Stewart presided with Commissioners Bill Dwyer, Bill Fleenor, Bobby Green, Sr., and Peter Sorenson present.  Recording Secretary Melissa Zimmer was also present.

 

1. Overview

 

Stewart indicated they had polled people at the fair asking their opinions and they have had three focus groups that were asked questions about the fairgrounds.  He wanted the publicís thoughts on the fairgrounds and what the Board should be doing in the future.

 

Sorenson thought they would be better off looking at the current facility, fixing it up and involving the public in the future for the current Lane County Fairgrounds.

 

Fleenor said as they deliberate on the future of the facility, they need to think in terms of a 100 year program. He said they have to look at the bigger picture and what they want to leave for their children into the future.  

 

Dwyer said if they do anything, it has to be on a dual track.  He added that they have to provide certainty into the future to ensure they have a stable environment.  He was willing to look at the other property and he was open to change.

 

Green said it is the publicís facility and he wanted to know what the public wanted and how they want to work to make it happen.

 

Stewart said he was committed in the long run to have the fairgrounds.  He said it is important for Lane County and for agriculture and the activities that take place.  He noted there are only four weekends a year when there is nothing taking place at the facility.  He said it is important to have this opportunity.  He said the cost of operations is a concern.  He said they donít have the physical ability to maintain the buildings and to upgrade them because any extra money they have is spent on the operation of the facility.  He said if they are going to do something different, they have to look at how they are going to pay for it.  He said if they donít keep up with the times and offer what the citizens need; they wonít be able to stay in business.

 

2. Fairgrounds Options

 

Bill Seider, Pivot Architecture, indicated the existing site is 55 acres and the total building area is 352,000 square feet.  He said the costs for improvements that are basic with no square footage added would be about $10.5 million. He added for planning purposes they allowed an additional $3 million for permits and fees.  He said to keep what is currently located at the fair would cost about $13.5 million to repair.  He said in moving to another site, they were asked what the cost would be to replace the current buildings on the Golden Gardens site.  He said to replace the buildings with similar square footage, with the museum and Extension Service, there is a total of 380,000 square feet. He noted in todayís costs, it would be about $145 million.  He said they looked at remodeling the livestock building to use all year long.  He added to expand the livestock building and to create more meeting rooms or a conference center and replacing the expo building would be about $65 million.  He said if they wanted to take the 100 acre site at Golden Gardens and add athletic events, RV parking or an amphitheater, the costs would be between $175 to $260 million.

 

Stewart reported that they have a task force group looking at locating the fair to another site.  He said the city has a two year option for Golden Gardens and it is not costing the County any money.  He said if that is a viable site, they would be able to purchase it for the same price the city paid for it.  He indicated that they held four focus groups including vendors from the site.  He learned from the groups that there is a high awareness of the services of activities that take place.  He said of the people who participated, they believed the fairgrounds are important and the Board needs to continue to operate the fairgrounds.  He said they were interested in the outcome of the fairgrounds into the future.

 

3. Public Comment

 

Malcom Trupp, Eugene, stated he represented the Grange.  He recalled that all granges were part of the Fair Advisory Organization.  He said it addresses farm and rural education and health care.  He noted it is a grass roots organization and they want to see the fair maintain agriculture.  He indicated that granges promote agriculture at the fair and they want to see agriculture as the main purpose of the fair.

 

Dan Armstrong, Eugene, stated he is a local writer. He suggested when they think about the future of the fairgrounds to bring more localization to the economy in the agricultural department.  He said with the rising price of food, they wonít be able to have a strong grass seed economy and they should grow more food.  He said they currently spend $700 million on food in Lane County and 95% goes out of state.  He said they need to strengthen agriculture and support farmers and establish markets.  He stated that a year round farmers market is needed.  He recommended keeping the fairgrounds where it is and over the next year to have a growers market two days per week.  He said when they review the fairgrounds to think about the possibility of a temporary year round farmerís market.

 

Cleve Dumdi, Junction City, commented that it was hard to make a recommendation on what to do with the fairgrounds with the information they received tonight.  He wanted the task force to look into this.  He also wanted another Fair Board appointed.  He said there needs to be communication between the fairgrounds and the Board of Commissioners.

 

Lester Stoner, Eugene, commented that the fairgrounds is a coveted pot of gold.  He said it is valuable to everyone who uses it.  He said a small group of people canít decide on the fairgrounds.  He indicated that it is the peopleís property and they need a vote by the people.  He thought the voters should be given options.  He said if 75 percent of the people say move it, then they should move it.

 

David Hinkley, Eugene, said he lived by the fairgrounds.  He said it is a valuable asset.  His recommendation is to do nothing.  He said the County has a major budgetary crisis.  His suggested waiting a couple of years to see how the County is going to finance the other programs.  He said they have to get the budget fixed before they start spending extra money at the fairgrounds.  He recommended just doing enough maintenance so it doesnít fall down and wait until they figure out the budget and then start on the fairgrounds.

 

Zachary Vishinoff, Eugene, recommended looking at Oregon lottery dollars.  He thought money could be spent to fix the fairgrounds with economic development money.  He said they need everyone to work together.

 

Eric Myers, Eugene, said he has attended events at the fairgrounds for over 20 years and he sells items at the Holiday Market.  He said he is the Co-Chair of Saturday market.  He thought the goal for the commissioners would be to create a deeper continuity with the businesses and combine sustainable practices that could affect generations.  He believed the Lane County Fairgrounds was a good place to show off things.   He said if they move the fairgrounds, it could affect the childrenís future because there will be an increase in traffic and they will need wetlands mitigation.  He said there could be a loss of community resources designated for agricultural use.  He thought the funds would be wasted on an unnecessary project.  He thought they could combine the Extension Service with garden plots and community agriculture.  He thought they could have small biowaste recovery for the gardens.  He thought they could have outdoor classrooms.  He said he brought in two petitions to maintain and improve the existing fairgrounds and greening the fairgrounds.

 

Suzanne Jackson, Eugene, said she owns Piccadilly Flea Market.  She asked why they want to move the fairgrounds as it is great where it is.  She said the Board should put money into it so people will come and use it.  She said people will use less gas and people can come by bus and they will reinvest their dollars downtown.  She thought the fairgrounds havenít been touched and she didnít think they should spend any money, but keep it the way it is.

 

Bruce Jackson, Eugene, commented that it is not just a fairgrounds but a park.  He said moving was not fiscally responsible.   He thought they could fix the sewage problems.   He said if they move away it would be further from the population and there would be less attendance and it could cost more.

 

Shanti Carter, Eugene, said the Board needs to go for a big vision.  She said there is a huge sustainability community in Eugene and instead of putting money in outlying areas; they should put money in the buildings.  She thought a green vision for Eugene is important.  She indicated that the Board needs to put energy into creativity and vision.  She said there are a lot of green businesses.  She thought they could find financial solutions by believing they could create something that would work and could be a model for the rest of the country.  She said they all want to put their energies in the current location.

 

Stephanie Land, Eugene, said there is a need for a year round livestock arena.  She said the U of O Equestrian Team tried to host a regional horse show that would have brought between 10 and 15 different colleges to Lane County.  She had to cancel because she could not find a location to hold the meet.  She said if the fairgrounds could have had livestock in February, she could have hosted the meet.

 

Kaley Fought, said she is the student coach for the U of O Equestrian Team.  She asked the Board to invest in year round use of the livestock arena.

 

Cindy Land, Eugene, commented that spending $145 million looking at another location would be a mistake. She thought they needed to be fiscally sensitive to what will happen over the next five years.  She said they should keep the facility where it is.  She thought they could use some of the cash flow from the facility for the maintenance if it was done correctly.  She didnít want the Board to go back to the public to ask for another bond because people donít want to pay higher taxes.  She thought the Board should redirect some budget issues they have including the Extension Service.  She said that funding will affect the fairgrounds.  She recommended putting Parole and Probation into the Sheriffís budget.  She said they need to start marketing the fairgrounds.

 

Stewart stated the Board is bound by laws on how they spend the money.  He said they are in jeopardy of losing money and they have no way to shift monies to come up with a different way to pay for the fairgrounds.  He said they started this process a year ago and they made a commitment to the citizens that they would hold a meeting on the fairgrounds and they didnít want to back away from it.  He said there is the possibility that if they do nothing, the facility would not be in existence and that is a concern of the Board.  He said they have to come up with a plan to make the fairgrounds viable.  He said unless the tourism tax continues, they might see a decrease in the tourism money.  He believed the Board was 100 percent committed to the budget and the general fund and to figure out how they are going to protect the citizens and provide services they need.

 

Peggy Ward, Eugene, said they shouldnít waste more time at a new place.  She said they will lose people if they want to move.

 

Fred Ward, Eugene, noted it costs $14 million to repair the buildings.   He asked if they could get a list of needs that could possibly be worked on. He thought repairing the building could be less than that amount.  He didnít see any buildings falling down.  He stated that Warren Wong was the best Fair Manager that had ever been at the fairgrounds.  He didnít think it was fiscally smart to move the fairgrounds. He didnít care how the building looked, but it was more important with what is in the building.

 

Jennie Selker, Eugene, said it was important to have an ice skating rink in Eugene.   She stated the facility they presently have is an outstanding facility.  She asked the Board to continue with it.

 

David Hoffman, Eugene, stated the Board doesnít have the money to keep the present facility open.  He thought by the time the fairgrounds would be rebuilt, the cost will be about 200 million and the County doesnít have it.  He thought they should put in a farmers market as it keeps the money local.  He said people need to learn to grow food.  He said they want their fairgrounds back.

 

Rachel Kidd, Eugene, said she goes to the events at the fairgrounds and thinks it is important to invest in the fairgrounds at the current location.  She didnít think the property should be changed or redeveloped.  She supported the urban and rural interaction with the fair and the Extension Services and the farmers market, as that creates interaction between the people in the city and farmers.  She said the fairgrounds activities bring money to the County.  She hoped there would be grass roots efforts to get a bond measure to make the fairgrounds a wonderful place for the future.  She wanted it to be kept at its current location.  She said it was time to get new ideas about natural ways of dealing with waste.

 

Helen Berg, Eugene, stated that she produces three home and garden shows.  She said the fair staff are wonderful and work hard.  She said she spoke with exhibitors and they want it to stay in the current location as it is convenient for attendees.  She suggested Phil Knight contributing to the fairgrounds, or they could have advertisements on the pavilions. She also wanted the fairgrounds to stay where it is located.

 

Noa OíHare, stated he managed the farmers market for the last decade.  He thought a long term farmers market was a good idea for the farming community and people coming to the facility.  He thought it was good that the users were talking with one another.  He said there is money for economic development to invest in creativity of funding options.

 

Cliff Kelley, Elmira, represented the 4H Leaders Association.  He stated that the FFA Youth Fair fills up the fairgrounds.  He said he hadnít taken the position on whether he wants to see it moved or not.  He said they want to ensure they have continued access for animal events on this site or another site for equestrian events.    He said with the equestrian uses in the County, the fairgrounds could benefit if they were kept open year round.  He commented the barns are the newest buildings at the facility and they canít use them six months out of the year.  He asked the Board to consider the animal community.

 

Michael Sunanda, Eugene, said he has been doing permaculture.  He thought harvesting water in the Amazon Creek was possible by taking the rainwater off the roof.  He said it could be recycled and put into a large pond.  He said they could have aquaculture.  He said they could have community groups working on a community garden.  He said permaculture is low tech.  He thought the fairgrounds could use energy conservation with a ponding system and tanks and they could compost manure.  He wanted to call it the Lane County Ecopark and then they could get volunteers.

 

Stewart recalled the issues that were discussed related to agriculture and the farmers market, the greening of the fairgrounds and sustainability. He noted a majority of the people wanted to keep the current site.

 

Adjourned at 8:45 p.m.

 

Melissa Zimmer

Recording Secretary