By Conrad Dudderar
EL RENO – More than three years after opening the Canadian County Expo & Event Center, county officials are studying future management and operation of the “old” county fairgrounds.
The seven-acre property, 220 N Country Club Road, houses the Canadian County OSU Extension Office, Education Building, livestock barn, greenhouse, and storage building.
Part of the site is rented for a truck driver training academy and booked regularly for private events.
Discussion about the property’s future use highlighted the Nov. 13th Canadian County Commissioners’ meeting. No action was taken.
The old fairgrounds facility is now managed by Canadian County Expo Center personnel. Canadian County’s “new” fairgrounds complex, 3001 Jensen Road East, opened in July 2021.
There have been some talks about leasing out – or even selling – the N Country Club Road property.
“We are all aware of the problems that come from multiple fairground locations,” Canadian County Commission Chairman Dave Anderson said. “This is a chance to start the discussion.”
Anderson described the challenge of managing two facilities – both the old and new fairgrounds – as being a “burden.”
Some people who book events at the old fairgrounds “don’t always follow the rules”, District 1 Commissioner Tom Manske pointed out.
Several examples were given about the rented space being “trashed” and alcohol use without permission.
Canadian County Undersheriff Kevin Ward suggested that whoever rents the facility for private events with alcohol be contractually required to pay off-duty sheriff’s deputies to provide security.
Kyle Worthington, the Canadian County OSU Extension director, likes the idea of his office continuing to book the educational and other non-profit events.
Worthington suggested that the County Commissioners’ Office handle bookings for private event rentals.
An outside janitorial company is now contracted to provide janitorial services at the old fairgrounds building.
Canadian County maintenance director Jason Acuff volunteered his services to take care of maintenance and custodial needs.
“The way it’s set up right now, I have no idea when anything is signed to rent the building,” Acuff told commissioners.
Acuff said if he’s kept “in the loop,” he will make sure the building is ready for use before and cleaned up afterward – and needed repairs are made.
He even offered to help take care of the event bookings to “take it off of the Expo Center’s hands.”
But Acuff pointed out that he “doesn’t want to be responsible for a cash drawer or any type of payments.”
Canadian County’s maintenance department staff is “burdened already” with more responsibilities coming as county officials look to build a new courthouse complex, Chairman Anderson pointed out.
“I want to be able to take care of the maintenance when it needs to be done,” Acuff responded. “I need to have buildings under my scope so I’m not getting information later down the road when something’s already broke.”
Canadian County Expo & Event Center Director Mandy Davis said she knows how important the old fairgrounds facility has been for so many years.
There have been 83 events there in the past six months.
“Jason does so much already,” Davis advised county commissioners. “If he’s in charge of 83 bookings in six months, just know how much more you’re giving somebody.”
Facility rentals for the old fairgrounds site is running at a significant loss.
From January through October, Canadian County spent $24,477 for insurance, utilities and upkeep of the facility. But rental income was only $12,600 – a $11,877 loss for this calendar year.
“We’re about at $1,100 a month that we are short on covering costs out there,” Davis noted.
Anderson, the four-term District 2 commissioner, explained the justification in investing in a facility that “loses money” is the economic benefits that it brings to Canadian County.
But he does not see the old fairgrounds’ facility on Country Club Road making “that large of an impact” – as compared to the $20 million Canadian County Expo & Event Center.
Another issue is that some groups rent the facility for a certain activity – but it turns into a “completely different type” of event, according to Davis.
“And we don’t have the staff to have somebody housed out there,” she added.
About 40% activities at the old fairgrounds are for educational and non-profit groups. The truck driving school uses a conference area for training.
Weekend rentals include birthday parties, baby showers, wedding receptions, and memorial celebrations.
“People have been taking advantage of that,” Davis shared. “They’re renting the facility for two nights and stay until 2 or 3 in the morning. They will put on their agreement to us that they won’t have alcohol present (but still have it).
“Our policy is that if there’s alcohol present, they have to get an off-duty officer out there.”
Davis reiterated that she doesn’t have the staff available to “shut them down at 11 o’clock like our contract says.”
THIS AND THAT…
Among other business at their Nov. 13th weekly meeting, Canadian County Commissioners approved:
- Awarding a bid to Midwest Printing for ballot printing in 2024 for the Canadian County Sheriff’s Office. Midwest Printing offered the low price for 14-inch ballots.
- Renting a Bobcat skid steer from Bobcat of Oklahoma City for District 2.
- An interlocal agreement with Oklahoma City for maintenance and upgrades of roads that link the city/county highway system.
- A contract with King Electric for electrical work related to the new County Assessor’s asphalt parking lot. The El Reno company will be paid $11,200.
Undersheriff Kevin Ward on Nov. 13 presented the weekly Canadian County Jail report for the sheriff’s office.
The update showed 206 inmates in custody, with 173 prisoners housed at the El Reno detention center and 33 others being held in contracted counties.
The total count is down 16 from last week as 57 prisoners await transfer to state Department of Corrections (DOC) custody.