Mohave County officials are set to take over operation of the county’s fairgrounds next year, for the first time since 1987. But with more than $880,000 in projected expenses over the next two years, no one ever said the cost of doing business would be cheap.
The Mohave County Board of Supervisors voted in August to take control over the county fairgrounds in August, following years of complaints about incomplete bookkeeping and deteriorating facilities that could pose a possible public safety hazard. The Mohave County Fair Association was permitted to host last month’s Mohave County Fair for the last time, before the county resumes control over the facility on Jan. 1. The county’s governing board on Monday will decide what steps will be taken in managing the fairgrounds next year.
At the board’s Oct. 18 meeting, supervisors will decide whether to complete a formal transition of the fairgrounds to the county’s control, and possibly direct county staff to establish a fee structure, rental contracts and sponsorship packages for the facilities.
The county fairgrounds next year will fall under the purview of the Mohave County Parks Department, and Parks Administrator Kristin Zimmerman is predicting total expenses of about $1.7 million for maintaining and repairing the fairgrounds’ facilities. The fairgrounds is expected to earn back more than $710,000 in estimated revenue during the same span, resulting in a net expense of $885,665 until the end of the 2023 fiscal year.
It’s a lot to ask, considering that the Mohave County Fair earns only about $300,000 per year, according to county records. That sum is only about 40% of the fairgrounds’ annual operational expenses. But Zimmerman believes that capital improvements at the fairgrounds could expand on the facility’s ability to generate revenue.
“As one of the largest single events in the county, the fair generates substantial economic activity,” Zimmerman said in her proposal. “The greatest economic impact occurs from ‘new’ money spent by visitors from outside the county, or money spent by locals that may not otherwise occur … The fair helps retain local money that might otherwise be spent outside the county.”
According to a proposed budget for the fairgrounds appropriation, county officials expect to invest $40,000 over the next two years into improving lands comprising the fairgrounds, as well as more than $500,000 in improvements to buildings throughout the facility.
According to Zimmerman, those improvements are sorely needed. The roof of the facility’s administration building is caving in, and the facility’s community stage is rotting, according to her proposal to the Mohave County Board of Supervisors. Cables within the 4-H auction area have broken due to area winds and substantial electrical hazards exist throughout the fairgrounds.’
Zimmerman estimates that the cost of cleaning debris, replacing boards and new paint at the fairgrounds will cost about $10,000. Demolition of wooden structures throughout the grandstand area will cost $30,000 more, Zimmerman says, and removing possible asbestos insulation will cost an additional $25,000.
Additional expenses will include the hiring of new staff including a new permanent superintendent and office manager, as well as establishing a new website for the fairgrounds and repair projects throughout the fairgrounds that could be completed as late as next June.
Ultimately, Parks officials believe that the fairgrounds can be a producer of revenue for the county. It won’t be easy, now will it happen quickly, but according to a proposal by Zimmerman, the fairgrounds can offer a venue for equestrian, exposition, festival and sporting events; as well as featured events like the Mohave County Fair. Under Zimmerman’s proposal, the fairgrounds’ existing motorsports area will be removed to create a new festival grounds for “pop-up” events, and an expo center will be added to host future workshops, conferences and special events.
Zimmerman says she will seek additional funding for renovations and improvements for the fairgrounds, including state and federal grants or loans, non-profit grants and private donations toward the facilities.
The Mohave County Board of Supervisors is scheduled to discuss and possibly approve plans for the operation and repair or renovation of the fairgrounds at its next meeting Monday in Kingman.