Analysis recommends fairgrounds improvements

New and expanded facilities at the Mesa County Fairgrounds not only would offer needed amenities, but also bolster tourism and create jobs, according to a business analysis of the fairgrounds.

Recommended additions include a 5,000-seat event facility as well as an exposition hall offering more than 25,000 square feet of exhibit space. Preliminary estimates peg total construction costs for all the improvements at between $24 million and $26 million.

“The recommendations from the study include new facilities at the fairgrounds complex as well as expansion of existing facilities. Our goal is to offer new amenities that do not duplicate or compete with existing local services,” said JoCarole Haxel, fairgrounds manager.

The business analysis is part of efforts to draft a master plan for the fairgrounds for phased development of  the 93-acre property on Orchard Mesa in Grand Junction.

In addition to the annual Mesa County Fair, the fairgrounds host more than 400 other activities each year and serve as a venue for the 4-H youth program and Orchard Mesa Little League. But several of the structures at the fairgrounds are aging and outdated. Moreover, a new intersection on U.S. Highway 50 will change access to the fairgrounds and how parks there are used.

The planning process is expected to continue this fall  if Mesa County commissioners decide to move forward based on public comments.

“This is an effort to look forward and help us reach our potential,” Haxel said. “We’re working with our residents and local leaders to create a vision for this campus, to clearly define how we think the fairgrounds should serve the community in the coming years.”

The business analysis included a review of local and regional market information to determine what business model would provide most successful for the fairgrounds. The analysis also examined several options for development at the facility.

Recommendations for new facilities included  a multi-use event facility with 5,000 fixed seats and an exposition hall with 25,000 square feet of space.

The analysis recommended the expansion of existing equestrian and livestock facilities at the fairgrounds, including stall barns and the covered arena. An expansion of the BMX bicycle track and extreme sports facility also was recommended.

Fairgrounds improvements likely would be completed in phases over the course of several years.

The event facility would be the most expensive improvement at an estimated $16.5 million, while the exposition hall would cost about $4 million to construct. Improvements to the equestrian and livestock facilities would cost $2 million to $4 million, while expanding the BMX track would cost $840,000. About $1 million in additional infrastructure likely would be needed for the expanded facilities.

According to the business analysis, new and expanded facilities at the fairgrounds have the potential to bring an additional $12 million to $14 million in spending to the local economy each year. The improvements also would create 160 to 190 new jobs.