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Fairground costs climb, officials seek more funds

An expo center is the main building in a new Canadian County Fairground that the architectural firm Populous has designed.


The Canadian County Commissioners learned Monday that the estimated cost of a new fairgrounds has grown from the original estimate of $12 million to $15.8 million.
The estimate grew because the commissioners have increased the project’s size and improved it appearance and capabilities, Commissioner David Anderson said.
“It’s going to be bigger and more aesthetically pleasing,” he said. “We’re getting more value.”
The commissioners agreed to use unspent county money and to ask BancFirst to increase its $10 million line of credit for the project.
“It’s an exciting time to be this close to breaking ground,” Anderson said at a joint meeting of the board of county commissioners and the Public Facilities Authority.
The commissioners serve on both boards, and the Public Facilities Authority is responsible for the fairgrounds construction, Anderson said.
In the end, spending on the fairgrounds could cost the county less than the $15.8 million estimate that Lingo Construction Services, the construction manager for the project, has developed.
One way the county will save money is by doing some of the site work with its own crews. Another possible savings is that bids could come in under budget, Commissioner Jack Stewart said.
“I think the estimate is chasing a high number,” he said.
One of the changes in the project is to make the arena 25 feet wider than originally planned at an estimated cost of $515,000.
“It was just too short for a rodeo,” Anderson said. “In my opinion, it’s worth it to make the change.”
Commissioner Marc Hader agreed.
“I’d rather build it too large for now and grow into it,” he said.
Stewart said that increasing the size now makes sense because modifying the
building later would be costly.
“If we’re going to do it, now is the time,” he said.
The county is $3.3 million short of the money it needs for the current $15.8 million estimate, Anderson said.
The commissioners agreed to use $1.4 million of unbudgeted collections from its use tax to help make up the shortfall.
The county has ample borrowing ability to cover the additional remaining shortfall, said financial adviser Ben Olglesby of Municipal Finance Services Inc.
The county is funding the fairgrounds with the use tax, which is charged on internet sales and on the sales of items Canadian County residents buy outside the county, such as motor vehicles.
Even with additional borrowing, the county will be able to stay within its policy of budgeting no more than 60 percent of projected use tax collections to the project, Anderson said.
The commissioners held off on authorizing the project to proceed until they receive the increase in the line of credit.
“I’ve got to know I’ve got a loan before I sign on the dotted line,” Anderson said.

Details of the new fairgrounds
The proposed fairgrounds includes a large expo center and a maintenance building.
Canadian County is modeling its new fairgrounds on the Grady County Fairgrounds in Chickasha, which is relatively new and has been successful in attracting new events to the community, Anderson said.
The master plan for the project includes work that is not in the current budget – a barn, a new building for the OSU Extension Service and RV hookups.
The new fairground will be built on 50 acres of land located just east of the El Reno city limits at the intersection of Jensen Road and Alfadale Road. It is just east of U.S. 81 and south of Interstate 40.
The county purchased the property earlier this year from the Jensen family with the option of purchasing an additional 50 acres in the future.
The facility will replace the current fairgrounds, which have been on the same property since the mid-1950s.
That location, which is about 14 acres, is land-locked and considered too small for the fairgrounds to expand enough to offer the types of events that draw large crowds, the commissioners have said.

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