A little something missing from the Fairgrounds: showers
In scanning down the long list of improvements under way the the County Fairgrounds - $3 million worth of improvements - there's one thing missing: showers.
Pattie Pierce noticed that omission and brought it to the county commission's attention last week. She told them that the county was missing an opportunity to draw hundreds of visitors to the fairgrounds because people who compete in national and regional equestrian events want that amenity.
Commissioners did not jump on the idea.
Among the problems they raised during a lengthy back-and-forth discussion were these:
Showers are expensive, not necessarily to build, but to operate and maintain. Pierce replied that the county has to maintain restrooms at the grounds anyway.
There is no way that a few hundred people can share a handful of shower stalls. Pierce said it can be done.
Finally, there is no way the county is going to be accused again of competing with private dining, lodging and tourist-related businesses.
The last item was the big one. Earlier this summer, the commission took heat from local convention facilities who were upset that the new Event Center was sucking away their business. Commissioners got the message, and as a result they vowed that the big fairgrounds facility would only book larger conventions or exhibits that require more space than the city-based convention centers can handle.
With showers at the fairgrounds, commissioners noted, it would appear that the equestrians would have no reason to go into town except maybe to buy gas. Many of the people who attend these events arrive in campers or trailers. If the fairgrounds offered shower service as well as parking space at the fairgrounds, motel operators and RV park owners might argue unfair competition.
The bonds that make up a little less than half of the total cost of the project are being paid by funds allocated from the restaurant tax fund,. Keeping people away from restaurants would be at cross-purposes to the intent of the fund, which is to increase traffic in the eateries and other tourism businesses.
Pierce said that bringing big events to the county would be a benefit because attendees do spend money at local businesses.
Rather than deny the request outright, commissioners advised Pierce to survey local motels, restaurants and RV parks to see if they had any objections. She agreed.