“We’re going to have a really nice building in town,” said Park County Commissioner Tim French of the Powell project.
The Business Ready Community Grant from the State Loan and Investment Board — which will go toward improving the parking area, electrical grid and other infrastructure around the new building — may be one of the last major pieces of funding for the roughly $3.1 million project.
Some $1.6 million was pledged by the county last year, $500,000 came from a mineral royalty grant approved by the State Loan and Investment Board in January and the county will cover the final $500,000 at least in the interim.
Park County commissioners tasked the five volunteer fair board members with raising that last $500,000 from the community, but those efforts have been slow. A May 31 barn dance at the fairgrounds did not go as well as board members had hoped and, after expenses, lost roughly $5,000.
Board members are planning more fundraising events during and after the 2014 Park County Fair — including a hypnotist performance in Cody the Sunday following the fair.
French attended Thursday’s State Loan and Investment Board meeting in Cheyenne, where the five statewide officials approved the $485,391 grant. French wasn’t called upon to speak as the county’s Business Ready Community Grant was approved among a long list of other projects without any debate.
The Wyoming Business Council’s board of directors had recommended approval of the grant at a May meeting in Laramie and French had lobbied the five state officials beforehand to make sure “everybody was good with it.”
Despite the apparent likelihood of getting the funding, French said it was worth making the 13-hour trip to the capital.
“It’s good to show up because you never know,” he said.
The Business Council’s northwest region director, Leah Bruscino, had recommended that the county send a representative to be safe.
Bruscino had also given the request a thumbs up in earlier comments to the Business Council.
“This is an important quality of life amenity for Park County,” she wrote.
Bruscino said the facility will be one of the largest venues in the county and allow for events that can’t be held anywhere else. Further, she said the new building will enhance the local 4-H and FFA programs.
Those programs and the fairgrounds “are critical for keeping youth involved in agriculture and developing the next generation of agribusiness men and women,” Bruscino wrote.
“This project is a great example of tying quality of life to future business development, directly as mentioned above, but also by making the communities in Park County more attractive to business because of the quality of life activities that will be held year-round in the facility,” she said.
Commissioners continue to work on plans for the new building. Construction is expected to start in August, shortly after the conclusion of this year’s fair, and wrap up before the fair’s 2015 edition.
The new facility will replace an aging complex of exhibit halls. One of those halls was demolished in 2011 because of structural problems.
Editor's note: This version corrects and clarifies the amount of county money being put into the project.