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Committee seeks community support to sway Lincoln County Board on Expo Center concept


MERRILL, WI  (WSAU)  -  A group of people supporting construction of an Expo Center on the Lincoln County Fairgrounds is trying to get the County Board to take a serious look at this plan.

The County Board created a Fairgrounds Marketing and Usage Committee to look at ways to get more use of the facilities and help generate income and stimulate the local economy. When bad weather brought down the old grandstand, members of this committee started thinking about a more versatile replacement. What they came up with is a 150 foot wide by 250 foot long expo center, with a dirt floor and aluminum bench seating built into earth berms. It would seat 3,400 people.

Dale Christensen is one of the members, who is disappointed the Lincoln County Board voted to simply replace the old grandstand with another grandstand. He would like the opportunity to show the board what they’re missing. “The county board put together this advisory group on a vote of 19-2, Let’s form a group to market the fairgrounds. Now, let us do what you’ve asked us to do and take the time to listen to the information before you make your decision.”

Peter Annis says having a facility that can be used for more than the fair and the rodeo will bring in tourism dollars, and some of that will go to the county. “The county will take in $68,500 based on our first year of operation. They don’t make anything now.” He says they’ve made a business plan and financial projections based on eight events in addition to the fair and the rodeo at about half capacity. He says an expo center building would create many potential uses for the fairgrounds. “Putting our heads together when we came up with the list of things, and everyday we think of something else that we can bring in there. There really are no limits to what we could do in that building.”

When the Lincoln County Board voted to simply replace the grandstand, it was a close vote and there were absent board members. Christensen says they would like the County Board to slow down and look at the proposal, and consider changing their votes. “The only thing that’s going to make the county board stop and say, hey, we need to look at this is numbers. We’ve got numbers.”

The Fairgrounds Marketing and Usage Committee asked the more than forty in the audience Wednesday night to contact their board supervisors and ask them to reopen this topic.

An area business person has already offered to provide bus service for people that wish to attend the next County Board meeting, which is in Tomahawk. That meeting is next Tuesday May 21st.

The proposed expo center would cost about 2-point-5 million dollars for phase one, and a total of about 7 million for the complete structure.

The Fairgrounds Marketing and Usage Committee has more information on their Facebook page .