- Larry Budd Staff Writer
The grandstands at Warren County Fairgrounds have been reduced to rubble.
On Thursday, contractors were working on piles of building materials left after more than week of demolition work on the facilities used by decades of horse racing fans and county fairgoers.
The building will be replaced by a $3 million event center described by an architect as a “”Swiss Army knife kind of building,” easily modified for activities ranging from annual fair activities to weddings to races on the adjoining track.
For 70 years, the grandstands and track were used principally for harness racing, except during the weeks it was devoted to the county fair. Beneath the enclosed seats, the late Corwin Nixon, a long-time state representative, maintained an office.
They fell into disrepair after live racing and off-track betting were sold to the operators of the Miami Valley Gaming & Racing, the racino just off Interstate 75, west of Lebanon.
The event center is envisioned as the centerpiece of the redeveloped fairgrounds. The county plans to use funds set aside by state law and donated to the county by the racino operators.
The property is owned by the Warren County Board of Commissioners, although Ohio law puts the agricultural society, better known as the fair board, in charge of the facilities.
The fair board and county commissioners reached agreement on the event center, but much of the parking lot next to the new facility is still owned by the Carlos family, with the Nixons the two families that controlled racing seasons before the move.
However, the commissioners continued to discuss how much to spend on the facility.
Commissioner Shannon Jones suggested the Track Kitchen, a restaurant on the fairgrounds, could use some reinvestment.
The architecture firm McGill Smith Punshon has been hired to design the event center.
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Commissioner Tom Grossmann suggested the facility could be enlarged for $300,000 to serve larger and a more diverse array of events.
“Wy wouldn’t we do that?” Grossmann said.