Big fair, big plans.
Elkhart County 4-H Fair officials are always looking ahead to what’s next for the fairgrounds and the annual summer festival. Among them is Tim Yoder, 2014 fair president.
Yoder recently outlined several projects he hopes will be completed by the time next summer’s fair rolls around. The list includes additional restrooms, an emergency broadcasting system and improvements to the “wing” bleachers at the grandstands.
Yoder said plans call for a new restroom in the area of the 3-on-3 basketball courts and Young McDonald’s Farm. Another restroom would be located in the area of Gate G north of the track. Yoder estimated the cost for both at around $500,000, saying that’s a preliminary figure.
“...If you listen to comments back from our guests, the folks who come to the fair, that’s something we hear over and over — we need some restrooms,” Yoder said. “We’re lacking in that.” The fair’s existing restroom facility is located just west of the grandstand seating.
Fair officials are also targeting the wing bleachers on the north and south sides of the main grandstands for an upgrade. Yoder said the idea is for the wings to be elevated, with space for storage and merchandising underneath.
One benefit is that audience members would be better able to see what’s happening on the stage and on the track, Yoder indicated. More seating in the wings is also part of the plan. Yoder estimated the cost of the improvements at around $380,000.
Also in the works is an emergency broadcasting system, with a preliminary price tag of around $70,000.
“We have so many year-round events (at the fairgrounds) that we could use this year-round, and during the fair we could actually have this become a paging system...” Yoder said. “It definitely would upgrade our safety.”
“It’s a system just like Goshen’s got right now,” and it could be activated by Elkhart County dispatchers at the 911 center, explained Phil Wogoman, the fair’s emergency management director. “We also have the capability onsite to activate it, and we can also make announcements over it, if we have to.” Wogoman said he could access the system via his smartphone and make an announcement, if need be.
Two siren/speakers would be installed, according to Wogoman, one by the midway area and one by Gate G, “and that will cover the fairgrounds plus the new acreage.” The “new” ground refers to 253 acres of former Aggregate Industries property that’s been purchased by fair officials.
In Wogoman’s view, the proposed system would be an improvement over the existing public address set-up at the fairgrounds.
“You can’t hear it in the midway, and you can’t hear it pretty much off of food row,” he said. “You can hear it in the barns a little bit, but not to the extent that it needs to be going over all the ambient noise. (The new system) will be loud enough, there’s no doubt you’ll hear a message if it comes out, even if your in the middle of the midway.”
Wogoman thinks residents in the subdivision across the road from the fairgrounds would benefit from the broadcasting system, too.
“There will be no question that something’s going on on the fairgrounds, and there’s an emergency taking place,” he said. “It’ll be loud.”
Other proposed projects at the fairgrounds include:
• An upgrade to the tram system. Yoder envisions an east-west, self-contained route that doesn’t interfere with motor vehicle and pedestrian traffic.
“We think we can do that for no more than $200,000,” he said.
• An upgrade to Rotary Drive, including drainage improvements, dealing with root problems and smoothing the pavement. That work is estimated to cost around $50,000.
Fair treasurer Brent Carrick indicated the projects will be reviewed by the fair’s finance committee as part of the 2014 budget process. The finance group will then make a recommendation to the executive committee. Ultimately, the budget will be up for a vote by the full fair board.