Sheila McLaughlin reports:
What will become of the Warren County fairgrounds when Lebanon Raceway moves out to its new racino site in Turtlecreek Township?
That’s the $6 million question being tackled by a think-tank committee assigned to figure it out. The group of 15 residents, business leaders and government officials is expected to make a recommendation to Warren County commissioners in October or early November.
At stake: the future of prime real estate in a fast-growing area of what the 2010 census found is the 2nd fastest-growing county in Ohio.
Proposals have started coming into the county in the past month, according to records obtained by The Enquirer. Among the ideas: an equestrian center, a technology ‘incubator’ even a site for music festivals.
- What should Warren County do with its fairgrounds? Tell the commissioners using the Enquirer’s ‘talk to your government’ tool.
And while county officials have indicated they don’t want to sell the 97.5 acres worth at least $5.3 million just outside downtown Lebanon, one county commissioner said it’s not out of the question.
“Upper and foremost, $6 million is not going to be adequate to totally let go of that land and move the fairgrounds somewhere else,” Commissioner Pat South told The Enquirer.
“I have always said I would sell it in a heartbeat to bring in new jobs. I can build a fairgrounds anywhere. But, we’ve not marketed it to even solicit purchase of the 100 acres – not that that idea wouldn’t be submitted,” South, who also is a member of the redevelopment committee, said.
The fairgrounds has been home to the Warren County Fair for more than 160 years.
Several proposals favor keeping the fair there and developing a horse-centered venue to keep with the property’s history of harness racing for more than 60 years and the county’s large horse population. Warren County was home to 2,798 horses – the fifth largest horse population in Ohio – during the latest horse census in 2007, according to the National Agricultural Statistics Service.
• The Warren County Equestrian Committee, a group of equestrian enthusiasts, has proposed building a heated arena for equestrian events, dog shows, trade shows and year-round rental. Members suggested a new barn that could serve as a “horse hotel” for people traveling with animals, a new and updated camping area, and a convention center. Such a re-development would generate about $1.7 million a year for the fairgrounds and have a $17 million economic impact for Warren County, the proposal said.