What should be done with the old fairgrounds grandstand?

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Last summer, the grandstand at the Madison County Fairground was declared off-limits after an engineering firm found it to be unsafe to occupy. County leaders are trying to decide what to do with it.

(Posted Nov. 13, 2019)

By Kristy Zurbrick, Madison Editor

What do you think should be done with the aging grandstand at the Madison County Fairgrounds? Madison County leaders want to know.

The county commissioners have posted a public opinion survey under “recent news” on the county’s home page, www.co.madison.oh.us/. The direct link to the survey can be found at: Grandstand Public Opinion Survey. Anyone is welcome to fill it out.

The goal with the survey, said county Administrator Rob Slane, is to see what people think about the cost benefits of repairing or replacing the grandstand, as well as their ideas for how it could be used.

Earlier this year, an engineering firm inspected the grandstand and found it to be unsafe for occupancy. It was off-limits at this year’s county fair.

The interior structural supports of the grandstand are in good shape. The wood on the exterior and perimeter is not.

The all-wood structure likely dates back to the 1870s. While its interior structural supports are in great shape, much of the perimeter wood has suffered significant deterioration.

The engineering firm and an architectural firm, both hired by the commissioners, put together options and cost estimates. The estimated cost to repair the grandstand is $518,400. The estimated cost to demolish it and replace it with a conventional bleacher system is $270,750.

At the commissioners’ Nov. 11 meeting, Dave Monnin, a member of the Madison County Agricultural Society (senior fair board) said he likes the idea of the survey and wants to see the commissioners and the Ag Society work together to figure out a solution.

“Can it be fixed? I’m sure it could be, but is it worth it? I don’t know,” Monnin said, adding that he would like to see a decision made relatively soon. “I hate the idea of it being closed for another fair.”

The structure’s historical value has been part of many conversations, as has its usefulness.

“I’m a history buff, but I wonder, (if it is repaired) will it be used or will it just sit there?” said Commissioner Mark Forrest.

Commissioner Tony Xenikis said he will not support a large investment in repairs to the grandstand.

“I want the most cost-effective answer that will still satisfy what needs to be done,” he said. “There’s that saying, ‘You can put lipstick on a pig, but it’s still a pig.’ Sometimes, things outlive their usefulness.”

According to Slane, there is no plan in place at this time for how any repairs or replacement would be funded or by whom. In recent years, the county provided matching public funds to private donations the Ag Society raised for new buildings at the grounds.

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