Fair board getting closer to funding for grandstand

Fair board getting closer to funding for grandstand


Suzanne Dean




A new grandstand at the Sanpete County Fairgrounds, along with other improvements, appears to be within reach.

In fact, the Sanpete County Fair Board wants to start building in 2017. The total budget is $1.8 million. The fair board is still $400,000 short. But fund raising efforts are bearing some fruit.

Mike Bennett, fair board chairman, and Matt Reber, the co-chair, have been making the rounds to city councils asking for donations to help cover shortfall.

Some towns have pitched in. Others have said they have nothing to donate. Several towns have agreed to enclose a letter from the fair board in their utility bills seeking small donations from citizens. Some of those letters will go out with this month’s bills.

“We’re going to the municipalities here in the county to ask for a donation, to ask them to take a vested interest in helping get this project off the ground. We know we’re going to end up with some of it on a loan, which we don’t want,” Bennett told the Ephraim City Council on Sept. 21.

The Sanpete County Fair is 103 years old, making it one of the oldest fairs in the state, Bennett told the Ephraim council.

The wooden grandstand at the fairgrounds, which seats about 1,000, is 97 years old. In 2008, a structural engineer said the stands were unsafe.

“Well, here we are eight years later and still using them,” Bennett said. “We’re setting ourselves up for a major catastrophe if we keep doing what we’re doing.”

About four years ago, the county hired Jones and Demille Engineering to prepare a master plan for the fairgrounds and to put together an application to the Utah Community Impact Board (CIB). Earlier this year, that request has been funded for $895,000.

The George S. and Dolores Dore Eccles Foundation has awarded $150,000 contingent on the fair board coming up with the rest of the $1.8 million. A private citizen has given $150,000.

The rest needs to come from in-kind work by fair board volunteers and donations from businesses, municipalities and individuals, Bennett told the Ephraim council.

Bennett’s appeal obviously tapped into the council’s sentiments. Steve Widmer, city finance director, warned, “This is a very tight year for us to accommodate something extra.” Nonetheless, the council voted to donate $6,000—$2,000 per year for the next three years.

“I’d really like to see the county do some matching,” Councilman John Scott said.

“If we end up with a loan, there’s no way the fair board can pay it, so it would fall to the county,” Bennett responded.

“I feel better about that,” Scott responded

Bennett told the Ephraim leaders the fair board had commitments for $55,000 worth of in-kind work and was pushing to get the in-kind total up to $75,000.

He reported Mayfield Town had donated $3,000, and said he and Reber were meeting with three other councils that evening.

Larger businesses in the county have come on board, Bennett said. Zion’s Bank, Bailey Farms, Cache Valley Bank, Dale Cox Contracting and JW Johansen Construction.  have donated amounts ranging from $800 to $40,000.

The Manti Ambulance Association, which had some funds left over from construction of its building, and the Mormon Pioneer National Heritage Area have both pitched in with $30,000.

The $1.8 million will cover a metal grandstand with a roof seating 2,500. There will be concessions and restrooms under the new grandstand.

Right now, youngsters competing in the Junior Livestock Show have no where to change clothes before they show their animals, Bennett said. They have been changing in horse trailers or cars. Some of the money will go to put restrooms in the large animal barn.

The master plan completed in 2015 calls for the new grandstand and rodeo arena to be north of the current one. The new arena would face south.

According to the application document, relocation would make the arena the focal point of the fairgrounds, with carnival, animal and exhibit activities around the periphery.