Lake County Fairgrounds mulls renovations

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LAKEVIEW — Lake County Fairgrounds may soon see a change in facilities, layout and appearance following completion of a master plan funded, in part, through a recently acquired grant.

With the assistance of South Central Oregon Economic Development District (SCOEDD), a $50,000 Local Economic Opportunity Fund Program grant was approved through Business Oregon. Its purpose will be to fund a two-phase assessment for development of a master plan for immediate facilities needs, maintenance and possible redesign.

LRS Architects of Portland is the company tasked with the master plan assessment, a company that specializes in fairgrounds, according to Lake County Fairgrounds Manager Ronne Lindsay.

Agents of LRS Architects will visit the fairgrounds Tuesday and Wednesday to inspect the site and meet with groups that use the fairgrounds most such as 4-H, FFA, the Round-Up Association and fair board.

Feedback sought

The meetings also offer an opportunity to collect feedback from those who use the facilities about pressing needs. Additional meetings are scheduled with public works, a plumber, electrician, building inspector and others involved in more technical aspects of the site.

The grant requires phase I delivery of a master plan by Aug. 30, with phase II due by the end of the year. According to Lindsay, total cost of the master plan will be around $75,000.

The first phase will assess the property, while the second phase is intended to include an architectural piece and recommended funding.

LRS Architects has completed, or is in the process of completing, 18 master plans for fairgrounds from rural to metropolitan areas, according to Lindsay. While most master plans are given a 12-month period, the grant timetables necessitate an accelerated timeline with only eight months for completion.

“I am hoping that with fresh eyes they come in and see a layout that will be more efficient, and a site that could possibly be used year-round if we were to develop an indoor arena,” said Lindsay. “It is not that I want to get rid of everything, I want to make it better.”

Milestone approaching

The Lake County Fairgrounds is reaching a milestone Labor Day weekend with the centennial celebration of the annual Lake County Round-Up — a grand week-long party that incorporates the Lake County Fair with a multi-day rodeo, concerts, reunions, demolition derby, parade, family activities and more.

The site sees extensive use throughout the year, including a large annual Fourth of July celebration, rodeo competitions, motorsports and various community and club events. There are also several indoor exhibit halls that are utilized for various public events, weddings, expos, and trade fairs. Two museums occupy the property as well, one dedicated to the annual Lake County Round-Up, and an outdoor village that showcases artifacts and buildings from Lake County’s rustic past.

Parking, exhibit space an issue

The site covers 93 acres, but much of it is unused open space behind the main arena rarely touched outside of occasional motorsports competitions for tough truck and dirt bike contests. For its larger annual events lack of parking, room for vendors, and proper space allotment and walking areas through animal barns and exhibit halls are common problems.

“The master plan is from the ground-up; they are going to address power issues, drainage issues, sewer capacity, traffic flow, pedestrian flow, parking and more — the whole infrastructure,” said Lindsay. “There will initially be more focus on repair rather than new structures; the master plan breaks things down into phases and basic costs per phase.”

While a popular site for Lake County events, the facilities are showing their age. According to Lindsay, many of the animal barns are rotting. Power available through the site’s current transformer prohibits any additional vendors, sewage and drainage remains an issue, and a shortage of RV space makes parking a tricky endeavor every year at big events.

The Fourth of July and Round-Up events also commonly suffer from bottleneck issues, too many people crowded into small spaces primarily around the animal barns and food vendor area, detracting from the overall experience.

“I can’t get any more food vendors because of limited space, and we are maxed out on power — any more vendors and we would need a new transformer,” added Lindsay.

“Eventually down the road I would like to see an indoor arena, and a separate place for all the motorized stuff. The addition of some RV space would be great, especially during Round-Up.”

The Lake County Fairgrounds has expanded in recent years. The Neil Flynn Memorial Roping Arena was added in 2016, which offers an additional space for rodeo activities during the Round-Up. A Friends of the Fair and Round-Up organization has also been created to pursue further funding sources to help complement needed work.

“I want to get a well-rounded picture,” said Lindsay. “I am hoping they come in and it’s awesome.”

Originally published by the Herald and News.

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