A number of heated and air-conditioned buildings to attract events year-round — including the possibility of luring Hamvention back to Montgomery County — factor heavily into plans unveiled Monday for the county’s new fairgrounds in Jefferson Twp.
As the fair opened for the 165th and last time on South Main Street in Dayton, John Yancik, president of the Montgomery County Agricultural Society Board of Directors, said the new $15 million build-out at Arthur O. Fisher Park would help the fair hold onto existing business and bring in new events.
“I’d like to see the ham (radio) convention come back to Montgomery County,” Yancik said. “It’s an economic driver and it started here. So why shouldn’t it come back from Greene County?”
The world’s largest amateur radio convention — bringing up to $14 million in spending to the region annually — was held at the Greene County Fairgrounds this year after long-time host Hara Arena shut its doors.
Hamvention currently has a multi-year contract the Greene County Fairgrounds & Expo Center, said Esther Pierson, the fair board’s secretary and rental agent.
“They were very happy here and we were happy to have them. We’ve had rave reviews, so I’m not sure they are going to be looking anywhere else,” Pierson said. “I’d like to keep them another 62 to 100 years here.”
In addition to Hamvention, Yancik said he’d like to see other regional events, such as Ale Fest, consider the new venue.
An Aug. 19 groundbreaking ceremony is planned on the 150-acre site located at 5661 Dayton-Liberty Road, about a mile west of the Dayton VA Medical Center on the south side of U.S. 35.
Current plans call for four of the eight structures built during the first phase to be air-conditioned, including the fair’s office building that will also house the county’s Ohio State University Extension staff.
A grandstand will be built at the northeast corner of the site facing an event field. The area will host pulling events and others like the annual horse show that are typically staged now on the infield of the current horse track.
While incorporated into the overall conceptual master plan, a horse track will not be constructed during the first phase of development, Yancik said.
“That will be down the road … for the next generation, or if funds become available sooner,” he said.
The new site will also accommodate up to 1,500 vehicles, 900 more than the Dayton fairgrounds. Up to 500 parking spots will be on asphalt. Unlike the Dayton fairgrounds, all parking will be outside the entrance gates. Planners have also included a campground.
After years of discussions, stalled development deals and much uncertainty securing a new location, the move crystallized when the University of Dayton and Premier Health finalized the purchase of the 38-acre Dayton site in April.
The purchase price was $15 million, of which UD and Premier each agreed to pay $5.25 million.
The two new owners of the Dayton site have yet to reveal development plans, though Mikki Clancy, Premier Health’s chief operating officer, spoke during the opening ceremony to wish Miami Valley Hospital’s neighbor of 125 years well in the six-mile move west.
“A lot has happened since last year and we know there’s a very bright future on the horizon for the fair,” Clancy said.
An Agricultural Society spokesperson has said the landmark Roundhouse will be incorporated into any new development or moved and rehabilitated.
The fair board once considered relocating to Trotwood where Gladys Turner Finney resides. The 81-year-old has been visiting the fair since she moved to Dayton in 1959.
She watched Monday’s opening ceremony from a front-row seat and then made her way to the livestock barns.
“I’m here to be a witness to the ceremony of the last fair (in Dayton) and part of the future to see what’s going to be on the grounds in Jefferson Twp.,” Turner Finney said.
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