APRIL 27, 2011 Joint Fair Board/BOC Minutes

April 27, 2011
12:00 noon
Commissioners’ Conference Room
APPROVED 6/8/2011

Fair Board Members Present: Sid Voorhees, Eric Meyers, Cliff Kelly, Greg Evans, Rosalie Long and Rick Reno, Fairgrounds Director was also present.

Board of Commissioners Present:  Jay  Bozievich, Rob Handy, Sid Leiken, Pete Sorenson and Faye Stewart.  County Administrator Liane Richardson, County Counsel Stephen Vorhes and Recording Secretary Melissa Zimmer were also present.

Vorhees stated that Rick Reno is a positive influence on getting the family tradition back at the Fair.

Evans reported they are under a variety of budgetary and facility constraints.  He said they have had an outstanding staff led by Reno that has been creative, proactive and productive in making the Lane County Fair a success over the last three years.  He recalled in 2010 they had an overwhelmingly successful Fair.  He indicated they had a five day fair instead of a six day fair.  He noted they had an increase in attendance of 1,300 people.  He said they offered more free entertainment than before and they netted more than $200,000 with the five day fair.  He added  that was as much they had made in the past with a six day fair in 2009.  He noted that most of the fairgoers went more than once.  He reported that they had a record breaking attendance on Sunday.  He said it was facilitated by the Food for Lane County promotion where they allowed people to come to the fair admission free with a can or donation of food.  He added that brought in over 24,000 pounds of food for Food for Lane County.  He noted that was the biggest take of food that they had ever done.  He said it increased Food for Lane County’s food revenue by 30 percent.  He stated that they restored the feel good atmosphere of the Fair and made it more family oriented. 

With regard to the 2011 Fair, Evans stated that they are going to have an affordable Fair for the family.  He said their rates are going to be well within line and what the market is dictating for their event.   He said they are going to increase the friendly family atmosphere of entertainment and the free entertainment to fairgoers.  He indicated that they are not charging for entertainment like they had done in past years.  He said they will have quality entertainment.  He indicated they will have a diverse range of talent on the Main Stage from country to rock and roll.  He said they will have livestock displays and they are merging with the Youth Fair to engage and be part of the Lane County Fair.  He indicated that they will continue to address their budgetary issues staying on budget with their projections.  He added they are continuing to redistribute their expenses and place the monies where they need to go for the events and for the operation of the Fair.  He asked the Board to join them on August 18 to participate in the Ice Cream Social for the seniors.

Stewart thanked everyone for the work they are doing.  He commented that the numbers in these economic times were hard to attain and they did a wonderful job.  He looked forward to next year’s Fair with a larger contingency of youth with their animals. He said the Board committed to having roof repairs done on the Expo Center this year.  He added they will be freeing up space with the demolition of the Extension building.  He said the Board is committed to having the facility and to see the Fair continue into the future.

Voorhees heard there were concerns that their Board wanted to take over the old style of management.  He commented that the MOU they agreed on would be advisory.  He said no one has encouraged going back to the old system.  He said they are happy in their advisory position.  He noted if there are issues that come up, Reno makes sure they are discussing the proper issues.  He didn’t support adding additional members to their Board.  He thought the committee was the right size for what they have to do.

Kelly indicated that they are having an emphasis on continuing the Youth Fair.  He said in recent tradition they held a separate event in July.  He said they are combining the Youth Fair with the Lane County Fair this year.  He commented that by demolishing the Extension building, they will have more room and it will help with the Youth Fair.  He asked about the Lane County Historical Museum moving and what that might mean for the Fairgrounds property.

Stewart said they received a presentation as a Board and a request from Mr. Hart and Mr. Gustina.  He stated that  Hart and Gustina asked for the Board’s blessing to try to move into the old Post Office building. They came to the Board because they are the caretakers of the artifacts the County owns.  He said the Board was supportive of the effort to move.  He didn’t have any conversations about the future of the facility.  He said the direction they have asked at the Facilities Meeting is to ask Reno what the strategic plan would be for that site on the Fairgrounds.  He said they will start that conversation once the Fair is over.

Long also did not want to add more committee members.  She thought what they had was working well.

Reno stated that he appreciates the support he has received from the Fair Board and the Board of Commissioners.  He reported that the Youth Fair for this year is looking good.  He recalled when the Extension Service went out of business, the children would have to travel to other counties if they wanted to stay in the 4H Program.  He added the Fair Board stepped up and offered the Youth Fair.  He noted they were already discussing combining the 4H Fair at the time.    He commented that the freeing up of the Extension building has freed up space and more flexibility to help the kids  maintain the atmosphere and the experience of the 4H Fair. He emphasized that for the 2010 Fair they went from a six day Fair to a five day Fair, they increased the attendance and kept the same net they did before.  He recalled during a two hour period on Sunday from 11:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. they facilitated 24,000 pounds of food for Food for Lane County. He said even with the economy, their total sponsorship was up from last year. He said the cash went down but the in-kinds went up and it helped promote the Fair more than they had in the past.  He said it demonstrated that they now have a family affordable Fair.  He believed the message is getting out to where the sponsors are seeing there is a value.

Voorhees indicated that they don’t have an arena or a facility to have a demolition derby.  He added that they don’t have a hotel or cornerstone restaurant.  He thought what they have at the Fairgrounds works.  He thought by moving the museum, they will be able to redesign things for a possible hotel.  He noted the issue they are worried about is that their Fairgrounds are always open.  He said they have had a lot of transients come into the horse barn and to the Extension area.  He noted Reno was concerned about locking it up earlier at night  He thought if they did, the Board will get bombarded with complaints., but in the real world they have to consider that.  He added it is becoming a security issue for Reno and staff.

Reno stated that they have a security issue.  He noted it is compounded by the fact that they sit in the middle of a community.  He said the neighborhood associations were in favor tightening up the security around the area.  He noted they have had extensive damage and it is escalating.  He said three of the facilities have been broken into on more than one occasion.  He added that they have had a theft and other things he couldn’t discuss publicly.  He noted there is also graffiti.  He stated at one point they are going to have to address it.  He said they have to protect an asset as best they can.   He said they have security at night but people still get in.  He was afraid of the horse stalls burning down.  He noted they found drug paraphernalia.  He added that they deal with that on a daily basis.

Kelly said when they go to other Fairgrounds they are open year round and take animals.  He thought that was something they should get back to.  He said the other venues in other counties are locked up at the end of the day. He thought they had to do that too.

Evans thought they had an opportunity with the 55 acre footprint of the Fairgrounds to develop creative public private partnerships that would improve the facility and improve their competitive posture in terms of attracting and retaining some of the convention and conference business that they already have.  He also thought they could attract more business by getting and boosting revenue of the facility.  He said they have had discussions with Reno about this.  He thought the facilities present an opportunity to Lane County to maximize the revenue they should be getting out of the facility and improving the physical facility themselves with some outside investment that could prove to be lucrative and profitable for the County.

Voorhees stated that there are public private partnerships in other Fairgrounds across the state.  He said John Day’s Fairgrounds were run down and they partnered with Les Schwab and now they have a beautiful facility.  He added that Deschutes County had also remodeled their Fairgrounds with a private party coming in with outside investments.

Leiken asked how the Matt Knight Arena was impacting the Fairgrounds.  He asked if there was a challenge with an urban Fairground.

Reno responded that the Matt Knight Arena for the community was wonderful.  He indicated they will get major entertainment that they could not have without the building.  He stated that it affects the Fairgrounds.  He said the arena has two full size practice courts.  He said they could  do other things in those areas like banquets.  He thought it could impact them a little. He stated the Fairgrounds still has the largest capacity for banquets in the area.  He also thought it helps them because it brings in economic impact .  He commented that depending on where they go in the future, they could have an arena that  seats 5,000 to 7,000 people.  He noted the statistics last year in the concert business was if they had an arena that seated 7,000, they could have 80 percent of the concerts touring.  He thought from 4,000 to 6,000 people they could have a lot of events and keep the ticket prices down.  He said they are close with the ice center if it was multi-purpose.  He thought there will be more opportunity for hotels because of the events.  He said people will find out about Eugene and what it has to offer from the Matt Knight Arena and they look at other spaces and what functions they can provide.  He indicated they are getting the Antique Roadshow that is a major event in June.  He said it is a challenge for them to only have 55 acres to have it be surrounded by 20 rentable spaces surrounding the parking lot.  He said they don’t have grandstands and that is a major drawing card.  He said that Deschutes is one of the models to study, but they can’t have the model in the existing footprint.  He said they are restricted with noise.  He said if they could have a Fairgrounds where they had the ability to have animal areas with a grandstand, arena or amphitheater, they could possibly draw more people.  He didn’t know if they could put that in their current footprint.  He thought they should go to the private sector for just the Fair. 

Kelly thought another option was the tribal support.

Meyers said currently in the valley they are producing less than five percent of food locally.  He said if they were to increase their production, they could see an increase in tax revenue in other areas.   He indicated an idea is to be a regional agricultural resource center.  He stated that goes back to what Fairgrounds are used for, supporting the farmers locally as well as other people in the community.  He said the agricultural center would consist of a resource center for people who wanted to learn about growing wheat or beans and shared office spaces for non-profits like  the Willamette Farm and Food Coalition, school garden projects for Lane County and the OSU Extension Service and other non-profits.  He noted the second component is a minimum processing facility where farmers could come in and wash their produce to get them ready to send out to the schools and hospitals.  He said that facility would support a year round farmer’s market.  He added they could have a restaurant that could be a hub for banquets.  He thought this could bring in more people throughout year.

Handy said they need a master plan for the Fairgrounds.  He said they need to have a short and long term plan.  He thought the urban footprint was a liability. He said they have to find and highlight their unique identity with their unique circumstance.   He said they need to have an exposition, recreation and food security commission and it would encompass the ideas they have.  He said they want to pursue revenue raising opportunities.  He said they need to look at new partnerships and they have to be responsive to the urban footprint.  He wanted to get to a master planning process and then work with private partnerships or farmers.

Stewart stated that Reno will be coming back to the Board in September to report back on the Fairgrounds.

Reno indicated that he will be reviewing past master plans.  He indicated there is a lot of information to review.

Voorhees noted one common issue is money.  He said they put out different plans over the years but there is not the money to do the projects.  He thought they are in better shape with Reno’s background.  He agreed the major Fairs are doing well are located off of I-5.  He worries about wasting Reno’s time on doing research to come back to the same result. 

Sorenson agreed with membership of the Board to five members.  He said they have spent a significant amount of time on models of Fair Boards across the state.  He said they changed the model of the Fair Board.  He favored the idea of having the Fair Board be advisory on all matters affecting the County. He thought the partnership between the University of Oregon and their athletic department and the Fairgrounds and Lane Events center is a good partnership.  With regard to recycling and greening the facilities, he said it would fit well with the population.  He wanted to see a greater emphasis on the local foods issues, pairing with some of the restaurants.

Stewart supported Meyer’s idea with the community.  He thought he should talk to the city of Eugene’s Manager John Ruiz.  He thought they were trying to do more downtown.  He thought there could be an opportunity with schools closing, to create a market on the closed property

There being no further business, Commissioner Stewart recessed the meeting at 1:10 p.m.

Melissa Zimmer
Recording Secretary