AS I SEE IT
By Neal A. Shipman
As the McKenzie County Fair Board begins finalizing its plans for what will be built at the new McKenzie County Ag Expo, the future home for the McKenzie County Fairgrounds, the highest priority needs to be to ensure that whatever is built will be adequate for years to come.
For anyone who has ever attended an event at the old McKenzie County Fairgrounds, they know that the current facility is woefully inadequate. The parking is poor at best, the exhibit buildings are too small and there is not enough room to have a decent-sized carnival. The list of issues that have plagued the existing fairgrounds go on and on, such as the lack of a covered grandstand for the outdoor arena and the lack of seating in the indoor rodeo arena.
But the question that the fair board faces is whether or not the $40 million that the McKenzie County commissioners approved for the new complex last week is enough money to build a replacement facility. In addition to the $40 million, the county has already spent $2.44 million to purchase the 212.46 acres of land along the U.S. Highway 85 Bypass for the McKenzie County Ag Expo and have agreed to spend an additional $4.01 million toward road and infrastructure improvements at the site.
During last week’s commissioners meeting, fair board representatives said they envisioned the $40 million Phase I project would include a 30,000-square foot exhibit hall, a 56,000-square foot livestock arena and an outdoor arena with a covered grandstand. But they expressed their concern that the large arena may not have enough indoor seating to accommodate a rodeo such as the NDRA Finals.
While the county commissioners are very supportive of the new McKenzie County Fairgrounds, some commissioners expressed their concern that $40 million may be all that the county can afford.
“Build something nice with the $40 million,” stated Clint Wold, during the April 20 commission meeting. “A $93 million project is too much.”
While the fair board envisions the day when more buildings and facilities can be added to the Ag Expo and it can be used on a year-round basis, the commissioners are right in asking that the $40 million budget delivers a project that is the same, if not better, than what the current fairgrounds offers.
With the uncertainty in the oil tax revenue that the county is receiving today, it is prudent for the county commissioners to be cautious with how much money they commit to the McKenzie County Ag Expo.