The nearly $12 million improvements at the Arapahoe County Fairground include a 36,000-square-foot covered arena that is southeast of the expanded event center. Photo courtesy of Arapahoe County
BY PETER JONES
Things do not always go as planned in county government – but when there is a master plan, mice and men get to work.
Witness the Arapahoe County Fairgrounds, where nearly $12 million in expansions and improvements are underway per a master plan set forth by the county’s Board of Commissioners in response to citizen outreach.
“The next couple of years will be a little bit of a challenge because we’ll still be under construction for parts of it,” said Shannon Carter, Arapahoe’s open-spaces director. “But we had citizen committees and meetings that mandated this.”
Although next month’s fair visitors will still get their share of cotton candy and mutton bustin’, they will also have a front seat to construction in progress as the county expands its event center and builds an outdoor covered arena and year-round park amenities.
The improvements have been funded by two sources – the county’s voter-approved open-space sales and use tax and Arapahoe’s share of the Conservation Trust Fund dollars generated by the Colorado Lottery.
Although the improvements were designed to improve offerings at the annual fair, they are also part of a founding goal to maintain the fairgrounds as a year-round venue. More than 200 events were held on the 236-acre property last year, generating nearly $100,000 in rental income, according to Carter.
An added 36,000 square feet in events space means a second exhibit hall for 4-H contests and other displays during the fair, but it also creates a more attractive space for consumer shows, weddings and any number of other events.
Likewise, a covered arena – also 36,000 square feet – will provide greater space for animals during the fair as well as a diverse quasi-outdoor setting for rental uses.
Adding to the aesthetics of both the fair and the property’s 12-month presence will be a series of park-like open-space improvements that are slated to eventually include water features, streams, wetlands and picnic pavilions.
“The first phase will be building some of those steam features and planting the native grasses and trees. In the future, we’ll be expanding that to additional trails and playground structures,” Carter said, noting that the trails would be integrated into the regional system, thus providing walk and bicycle access to the fairgrounds.
While no work will be going on during the actual fair, visitors will be asked to pardon a little more dust than usual – even for a county fair.
“For this year’s fair, the covered arena will be completed, but we’ll be in the process of doing the exhibit-hall expansion and park,” Carter said.
The fairgrounds are located at 25690 E. Quincy Ave., east of E-470, in unincorporated Arapahoe County. This year’s fair will be held July 23-26. Advance tickets are available at www.arapahoecountyfair.com.
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