Warren County Fair grandstand to be replaced with event center

Demolition of 70-year-old grandstand part of $3.6 million plan.

The 2017 Warren County Fair likely will not have a grandstand at the center of activities.

The 70-year-old structure, where horse race fans also placed bets during fairs and live harness racing for more than 50 years, is to be demolished in March.

Plans for its replacement, an event center that would also be used for the week-long fair, are still taking shape.

“We will not have a facility there during their fair,” Gene Steiner, president of the Warren County Agricultural Society, said Monday. “We hope to have it up and running by the summer of ‘18.”

On Thursday, county and city officials are scheduled to meet to consider seeking reimbursement for the $330,000 demolition from funds set aside for redevelopment of communities that lost racetracks after racinos were legalized in Ohio.

Last month, a divided agricultural society board approved the demolition after several years of debate.

“There’s a lot of history that goes along with that structure,” Steiner said.

The grandstand, in popular use during the 60 years the Lebanon Raceway offered live harness racing and then off-track betting here, has fallen into disrepair since the business left Lebanon three years ago to be operated as part of the Miami Valley Gaming racino.

A new lease between the fair board, which is in charge of the fairgrounds, and the board of commissioners, which owns the 97-acre complex, cleared the way for redevelopment of the facilities on the north end of downtown Lebanon.

City and county officials sit on the local board overseeing applications for reimbursement through the state racetrack redevelopment.

They are scheduled on Thursday to consider submitting this project for funding through the Ohio Development Service Agency.

On Tuesday, Dec. 27, the county commissioners are expected to approve a resolution to fund the demolition and the event center.

The fair board is still working on a plan to run the fair next July without the grandstands.

“For the short term, I’m not sure. Long term, we have plans for another structure to be built,” Steiner said.

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