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January 7, 2014

County fairgrounds look to expand

DUNCAN — The Stephens County Fair & Expo Center is outgrowing its space, and members of several community entities met Monday to discuss how to expand the fairgrounds and hold on to its various events.

The Board of Stephens County Commissioners met with members of the Stephens County Fair Board and construction managers, and Loisdawn Jones (executive director of Duncan Convention and Visitors Bureau), Chris Deal (Duncan Chamber of Commerce and Industry president) and Mike Anderson (Fair & Expo Center director) to discuss what should be done at the fairgrounds.

“We’ve outgrown it,” Anderson said. “We need to start planning heading.”

Dee Bowen, District 3 commissioner and board chairman, said some of the larger events held at the fairgrounds, including the Rising Stars Calf Roping, often cite the need for more stalls to continue growing.

Bowen said Rising Stars Calf Roping, which is the second largest event for the fairgrounds at the National Swine Registry Fall Classic, has requested an additional 100 to 150 stalls this year. He said, if the fairgrounds is unable to meet the request, it’s possible Rising Stars might move to a venue outside Stephens County.

Jones said Rising Stars is a growing event, and it will be up to the Stephens County Fair & Expo Center to meet the needs of the event.

“Rising Stars will continue to grow,” Jones said. “If we can’t meet their needs, they will grow somewhere else.”

She said the events at the fairgrounds have a substantial impact on the Duncan and Stephens County economies. The National Swine Registry brings in $700,000 to the community, as reflected on paper, and more likely is pushing a net of $2 million brought into the community. This money is spent on hotels, food, fuel and various other travel expenditures.

“Agritourism is a significant engine driver,” Jones said. “They’re brand new dollars coming in. The money swirls throughout the community.”

Anderson talked about the demand for more covered space on the fairgrounds property, going as far as mentioning the need for another covered arena near the Stephens County Arena just to the east of the fairgrounds office building.

He said Claud Gill Arena is too far away to help with many of the major events. And he said that arena could be phased out in the future. Each year, Claud Gill Arena is used two to three times. Anderson said the arena space could be use for RV parking.

“I’d like to see everything south of this building (the Stephens County Arena) taken down,” Anderson said. “Start fresh. It’s going to take a lot of money.”

Bowen said money is among the main issues when it comes to expansion at the Fair & Expo Center. Deal said there is potential for the county to partner with other entities in the community to help grow the fairgrounds.

He said the fairgrounds is a contributor to economic growth in Stephens County.

“This might be a way to get us all going in the same direction,” Deal said. “The best partner would be the whole county, the citizens.”

Bowen said the county needs to take action, and if other entities are willing to team up, it could be beneficial for the county as a whole.

“We need to step up to the place or we’re going to lose our events,” Bowen said.

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