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County to plan talks on building fairgrounds at Major site

Sep 5, 2012 - By Martin Reed, Staff Writer

Fremont County Commissioners on Tuesday said they want to host a series of meetings to elicit the public's desire for a new fairgrounds on agricultural land in northwest Riverton.

Meeting with Fremont County Fair and Rodeo executive director Barney Cosner and fair board members, commissioners talked about using the 100-plus acres they acquired last year as a new venue site.

Commissioner Keja Whiteman, who serves as liaison to the fair board, questioned whether her fellow county leaders supported a new fairgrounds at the site known as the Major property.

"It was always my assumption ... we bought that property for the purpose of exploring that as a new fairgrounds," but not as its only potential purpose, commission vice chairman Pat Hickerson said.

Public meetings

With commissioner Travis Becker rounding out the three elected board members attending Tuesday's abbreviated afternoon meeting, the group agreed to pursue public meetings to get input on the idea.

"I think we do start with a public meeting," Becker said, suggesting one at Riverton City Hall in the first or second week of October.

Whiteman recommended meetings in Lander, Dubois and other communities in the county as well, and fair board member Darin Coyle pointed out that the fairgrounds are meant to serve all county citizens.

"It's the Fremont County Fairgrounds," Coyle said. "I think that has to be public, in that we want to support the whole county."

The discussion centered on what the commission should do with the property, which was acquired for $200,000 from the Wayne Major Charitable Remainder Trust.

Near hospital, park

The parcel is located north of Riverton Memorial Hospital and Jaycee Park, stretching north to Cooper Road. It includes two nearby commercial lots directly north of former Riverton doctor David Steger's office off Major Avenue.

Wayne Major Sr. wanted the land to benefit the people of Fremont County, with part of the property going to the City of Riverton to enhance its nearby park. After one failed attempt, the city and commission appear ready to complete the transaction for the park land.

Possible uses for the overall property include a new fairgrounds or a justice center for courthouse functions.

"I think it would be great to have some citizen public input," Hickerson said. "The citizens are going to have to pay for it ultimately."

Cosner presented commissioners with a rough outline of a proposal to develop the property into a new fairgrounds. The southern end of the property would accommodate camping, parking and other uses, while a 200,000-square-foot building would be the focal point to the north.

He described the building that could accommodate various functions simultaneously as "an extreme benefit to the residents of Fremont County in multiple forms."

"This particular setup will allow us to multipurpose this building into three or four segments," Cosner said. "You could have three singular trade shows going on at the same time" without any conflict.

Becker said there need to be more formal steps regarding the proposal.

"If this board decides that this is the primary purpose of this property, you would have to get a planning study done," he said.

Cosner called the plan "an initial step" toward design of the property.

An expanded fairgrounds able to host a variety of events would boost Fremont County's economy and marketing, fair officials said.

"That's why the fair facility is centered, because it gives you the opportunity to do multiple things," Cosner said about the proposed central location on the property.

Cosner envisions partnerships with Central Wyoming College and its equine center and other local entities.

"That takes a nice opportunity and puts it in front of us to partner up," he said.

The previous estimated cost of $30 million presented to commissioners earlier this year remains accurate, Cosner said.

"This does a lot of things we all dream about," he said. "It will actually grow Fremont County. It will actually grow Riverton. It will actually grow the Fremont County Fair."

At the conversation's conclusion, Hickerson said, "It sounds like we have a strategy to get started."