(Posted May 9, 2019)
By Kristy Zurbrick, Madison Editor
The grandstands at the Madison County Fairgrounds are closed until further notice.
The structure, which dates back more than 100 years, has been in bad shape for years. Last year, the county fair board closed off the far east and far west seating sections during the county fair. This year, the entire structure will be off-limits.
“The grandstands are in the same kind of shape as the Grange building–they might stand for another 10 years or they might not, but who wants to take that chance,” said Dave Monnin, fair board member.
The decision to close off the grandstands came after a representative of the county’s insurance company and a structural engineer inspected the facility late last month. They deemed the structure to be “not safe to occupy,” according to Mark Forrest, county commissioner.
The commissioners and the fair board are working together to come up with a long-term solution. In the meantime, they plan to rent temporary bleachers for use during this year’s fair, which is slated for July 6-13. The approximate cost is $10,000. As for who will pay for the rental–the commissioners or the fair board–that’s “up for discussion,” said Rob Slane, county administrator. The grandstands sit on the portion of the fairgrounds owned by the county.
Each year during fair week, several events take place on and around the race track and grandstands. This year’s offerings include truck and tractor pulls, a demolition derby, dirt drag racing, and a rodeo. Some of the events typically draw 1,500 or more spectators. The plan is to rent enough bleachers to accommodate such crowds, Monnin said. He noted that the grandstands situation will not impact the country music concert slated for the first night of the fair because the concert is taking place on the track infield and concert-goers are bringing their own seating.
Regarding the long-term outlook for the grandstands, the commissioners and the fair board are researching three possible solutions. One is to repair the structure so that it can once again be occupied. Another is to fully restore the structure, adding new seating and other upgrades. The third is to tear down the structure and replace it with a modern set-up with aluminum bleacher construction.
The rough cost to tear down the building is $30,000, Slane said. The county and fair board have asked two companies that specialize in grandstands work to provide cost estimates for the repair and restoration options. They also plan to look into various replacement options.
“We’re still in the fact-finding effort,” Slane said.
At this point, there is no set timeline for choosing an option and moving forward, Monnin said.
“We’re asking for complete information before we make any decisions,” Forrest commented.
As for where the funds will come from to pay for whatever long-term option is selected, Slane said, “Financing of the project has yet to be determined.”