Fairgrounds planning proceeds

Work is expected to proceed on updating a master plan for the Mesa County Fairgrounds that could include such proposed improvements as an event facility and exposition hall.

The Mesa County Commission has voted to move forward with a community based planning process that will include focus groups and open houses. The commissioners expect to consider a completed master plan in December that will include recommendations for possible future development.

“The majority of people in the community who we’ve heard from over the years tell us they would like to see some improvements here. But to determine the extent and design of possible future facilities, we need more feedback from our citizens, user groups and community and business leaders,” said JoCarole Haxel, manager of the Mesa County Fairgrounds in Grand Junction.

In addition to the Mesa County Fair, the fairgrounds serves as a venue for more than 400 other activities a year as well as serves as a home for the Orchard Mesa Little League and 4-H youth program. But several of the structures on the 93-acre campus are aging and outdated. Moreover, a new intersection on U.S. Highway 50 could alter access to the fairgrounds and how parks there are used.

A recently completed business analysis recommended new and expanded facilities at the fairgrounds to not only offer needed amenities, but also bolster tourism and create jobs.

Recommended additions included a 5,000-seat multi-use event facility and an exposition hall offering more than 25,000 square feet of space. The analysis also recommended the expansion of existing equestrian and livestock facilities as well as a BMX bicycle track.

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

The commissioners rank priorities for capital construction projects on a countywide basis. Funding for those projects is allocated on an annual basis based on what projects are needed and how much money is available. Half of the  collections from a 2 percent sales tax assessed in Mesa County go into a capital fund.

Capital projects at the fairgrounds likely would be completed in phases over the course of several years. The commissioners don’t expect to borrow money for fairgrounds improvements.