Architects picked for Warren County Fairgrounds redevelopment

Warren County is demolishing the fairgrounds grandstand. GREG LYNCH / STAFF
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Warren County is demolishing the fairgrounds grandstand. GREG LYNCH / STAFF

Warren County is taking another step forward with plans to develop its fairgrounds.

Architects have been tentatively selected to design the event center expected to replace the grandstand at the Warren County Fairgrounds.

On Tuesday, the county commissioners and agricultural society agreed to work out the final details of a contract with McGill Smith Punshon, one of eight architectural firms considered to guide the project.

RELATED: Fairgrounds to be demolished in March

It was unclear how much the architect or a construction manager to be hired for the project would be paid.

The county has set aside $3 million, donated by the operators of the Miami Valley Gaming racino, while $1.5 million in racetrack development funds have been or are to be spent on the demolition and other improvements to the fairgrounds.

RELATED: New fence kicks off $5 million in fairgrounds redevelopment .

“This is not being funded by taxpayer dollars,” Commissioner Dave Young said during Tuesday’s discussion.

While the racino money was set aside for the redevelopment, it could be used to defray other county expenses.

The fairgrounds’ future has been the subject of discussion since the Lebanon Raceway, which operated from the fairgrounds for more than 60 years, was closed.

In December 2013, horse and off-track betting were moved to the Miami Valley Gaming racino off Interstate 75, west of Lebanon.

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Selling the property and relocating the fairgrounds, as is being done in Montgomery County, was reviewed, but rejected in favor of redevelopment of the 97-acre complex in downtown Lebanon.

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Also Tuesday, Becky Osborne, director for the society, also known as fair board, said the old grandstand would be torn down in the next two or three weeks.

The county commissioners are the owners of the fairgrounds, but state law gives the fair board authority to operate the facility, where annual county fairs are held.

This arrangement continues to complicate the redevelopment process.

“What involvement do you anticipate us having in this?” Assistant County Prosecutor Bruce McGarry asked the commissioners during Tuesday’s meeting.

While intending to leave operation and management to the fair board, the commissioners indicated they wanted to work with the board and contractors, including the architect, on the vision for the facility.

“We made the decision to move forward,” Commissioner Dave Young said. “We clearly have a vested interest in what goes on there.”

By the end of the week, McGarry is expected to submit a proposed contract, establishing the terms for retaining the architect to begin designing the event center.