County considers first steps in potential fairground swap

By Sarah Pridgeon

The County Commissioners may use grant funding from the Wyoming Business Council to explore the cost of reconstructing the fairgrounds near the Green Mountain Cemetery. The relocation and upgrade form part of a suggested three-way land swap between Crook County, the Crook County School District and the City of Sundance.

If the land swap goes ahead, the city will provide a new location for the fairgrounds near the cemetery, leaving the current location free for a new high school football field and athletic facility. Funding for the new fairground is expected to come from the school district, which has been allotted money from the School Facilities Commission to find and purchase land for the football field.

The three parties are still in the initial stages of considering the feasibility of a land swap. Figuring out the cost of moving the fairgrounds would be a first step in the information-gathering process.

At the regular monthly meeting of the County Commissioners last week, Dave Spencer of the WBC spoke of a recent fairground redevelopment plan that was performed for Johnson County. Though the idea is still being mulled over, the plan provided enough information to allow Johnson County it to consider its options.

Should Crook County follow the same path, a grant from the WBC could provide information on the amount of money that would be required to move the fairgrounds, the feasibility of the suggested site and what would be needed in terms of facilities.

“We would then know how much money we’re talking about,” commented Commissioner Jim Hadley.

According to Commissioner Kelly Dennis, the county is not willing to spend its money on the land swap and fairground reconstruction and will be looking to the school district to provide all necessary funding.

“My point of view on the money is that, whatever we put into a new fairground, the school is going to have to come up with,” he said.

“I’m not spending the county’s money on the fairgrounds, period.”

Hadley noted that a cost estimate will help the county understand what it will be able to do with whatever amount of money the school district is able to come up with. Though Spencer suggested that the project could be pursued in stages, through different grants, Hadley expressed his opinion that this would not be appropriate.

“We’ve either got the money to do it or we haven’t,” he said.

Clerk-Treasurer Kathy Lenz meanwhile confirmed that the Sundance City Council is in favor of swapping land near the cemetery. The initial proposal was for 18 acres of land on which the baseball diamonds currently sit, but this was deemed too waterlogged for the purpose.

The city owns 52 acres of land in the Green Mountain Cemetery, said Lenz. The council would consider swapping around 20 to 25 acres of this, leaving some available to expand the cemetery in the future.

Spencer pointed out that fairgrounds are experiencing problems all across the state because fairs are shrinking and are not as important to the community as they were 50 years ago. He urged the commissioners to consider the potential new fairgrounds as more of a multi-purpose venue.

Commissioner Jeanne Whalen responded that the fairgrounds have many potential uses aside from the County Fair, such as for craft fairs and wedding receptions.

The commissioners agreed that the first step in the process will be to work out how much it is going to cost to resituate the fairgrounds and build a new facility that is more functional than the current set-up. Spencer informed the board that grant deadlines occur in June and December of each year.