The Spokane County Fair and Expo Center is in the final preparations stages for this year’s Spokane County Interstate Fair.
But, down the road, the fairgrounds – located just inside Spokane Valley’s borders at Broadway Avenue and Havana Street – could offer so much more.
That was the word Tuesday from Lee Cameron, Spokane Valley representative on the Fair Advisory Board, and Rich Hartzell, fair director, who suggested that Spokane County commissioners consider authorizing $55,000 to pay for a study that would break down the long-term potential of the Fair and Expo Center, and its future needs for space, parking and additional facilities.
The county paid $25,000 for a similar analysis in 2009. However, that study was done by volunteers, whereas a new, professional study would augment that plan with more specific data, Cameron said.
“We should be thinking of a 50-year plan,” he said.
Cameron said that fairgrounds is often busy with events other than the annual fair, this year set for Sept. 7-16, such as last weekend’s vintage auto auction. Many times, it’s impossible to book two events at once due to the proximity of the exhibit halls to one another. However, there is room to expand beyond the fairgrounds’ existing boundaries as some neighboring real estate is potentially available.
“The area is somewhat underdeveloped,” Cameron said.
Adjacent property is owned by Spokane Transit Authority to the south, which is often used for parking. There is also land owned by the city of Spokane to the east, which includes a drainage pond, and the Aztech Electrical building directly to the east on Broadway and north of the Spokane land.
The Aztech building, 5204 E. Broadway, might make a good headquarters for the fair administration offices and the county parks staff that would be easily accessible even when the fairgrounds are busy, Cameron said.
“You’d have access in and out no matter what,” he said.
Commissioner Mark Richard said updating the plan is worth considering, but some more thought needed to be put into where the funding will come from. One possible source is the fair’s enterprise fund.
“I think you make a compelling case,” he said. “How we fund it is the thing.”
Hartzell said expanding the fair’s space will be necessary to accommodate large numbers of recreational vehicles for extended stays at certain shows. One request came with a request for room for 500 RVs, he said, while another came hoping for room for 2,500.
“That would be challenge for us,” he said.
Richard said it would be worth asking some more questions about the availability of the adjacent properties, including the long-term plans for Central Pre-Mix. He said he could envision a sprawling complex with indoor and outdoor venues much like the county-owned facility in the Tri Cities.
“It’s a showcase for the region,” Richard said.
Hartzell and Cameron said they would gather more information and report back to the commissioners.