After nearly 60 years of use, it’s time to upgrade the oldest building at the Douglas County Fairgrounds.
An estimated 5 million people have visited the Pavilion Building. They come not only during the annual county fair and carnival but throughout the year when the facility plays host to a number of organizations and events.
Anything that well used is going to need an upgrade after six decades.
The good news is the building doesn’t need to be torn down. It’s structurally sound. For example, the trusses are in good shape but the roof above them needs to be replaced to ensure they stay that way.
Fairgrounds Director Harold Phillips said other improvements are for health, safety and compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act. Arena pens and panels that are in disrepair and can hurt livestock need to go. Dilapidated bathrooms that give out-of-town visitors a poor impression of the facility need to be upgraded.
Ramps and bleachers that are accessible for people in wheelchairs are required. Airborne pathogens must be prevented from drifting from the livestock areas to the kitchen at the back of the building.
Some cosmetic touches are needed as well, such as new paint and siding for the exterior. It’s important to keep the building looking good for those who pay to hold their events there — events that often bring people from out of town who help boost our local economy.
In decades past when Douglas County had a lot more money to invest in its fairgrounds, the $1.2 million price tag for the suggested improvements would have been included in the general fund budget.
Since timber receipts have dwindled and the fairgrounds was forced to become self-sustaining, Phillips has had to get more creative with his fundraising.
Fortunately, he has a $100,000 commitment from the Lilja Family Fund of South Douglas County to kick off the campaign to restore the pavilion to its former glory.
Douglas County commissioners also showed interest in Phillips’ proposal this past week, as well they should. While the county needs to be careful with its spending, it should contribute at least $500,000 toward the project to protect the investment it made in the original building.
The commissioners’ investment would also recognize the growing agricultural base in our community. And that includes the hundreds of 4-H and FFA members who show and auction their livestock annually in the Pavilion Building.
We encourage other users, whether team ropers, penning clubs or members of the public who take advantage of riding their horses for free under cover, to consider pledging their financial support toward the building’s repair.
If everyone pulls together we can improve the appearance of one of the first buildings you see when you enter the fairgrounds. Even better, we can extend its life for several more generations.