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April 12, 2012 7:56 am

EDITORIAL: Fair building plans should look to the future

Written by Ilene Olson

When considering a new Park County Fair facility, the Park County Commission is right to move forward with care. After all, the estimated cost of $4 million is a substantial investment for a county like ours with a relatively small population.

Commissioners also were wise to hire a grant writer who is expert in seeking out available grants and other possible funding sources. Identifying and applying for possible funding could increase possibilities for the building and reduce the cost of replacing the former Large Exhibit Hall and adjoining buildings.

And it’s good to make sure that the scope of the proposed building stays within realistic boundaries so it can serve the county’s needs without becoming a burden.

But it’s also important to make sure that those in charge of the planning process look toward the future as well.

The Large Exhibit Hall served the Park County Fair well for more than 60 years. It provided space for fair exhibits and for community gatherings and events. But it was just a shell in comparison to the multi-faceted building that should replace it.

The building that replaces the small and large exhibit halls should be planned with a sense of vision — a clear understanding of the county’s existing needs, paired with a vision for the future needs of Park County.

While no one can predict the future, it is possible to plan for it.

Today, new technology and construction techniques can make one building serve several functions and purposes and make the building energy efficient and less costly to heat. Meeting and exhibit space can be divided and configured according to need and circumstances. Infrastructure can be installed to support today’s technological advances and offerings.

If planning is done well, and if Park County leaders and residents are willing to invest in the future, the fairgrounds can have a facility that would enhance the fair and attract events of many types year round. It also would serve as a meeting facility and a community gathering place.

Remembering that will be just as important as holding down the costs as planning for the new building continues. And, while that planning should be cautious, it also should be bold enough to move the project forward in a timely manner.

With careful planning and some vision, the resulting facility can be a county and community asset for decades to come.

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