Fair master plan calls for $51 million in upgrades

DOUGLAS — A newly released master plan for the Wyoming State Fair could expect to generate up to an additional $350,000 in revenue annually from horse shows and clinics if some of its recommendations were ever funded. The price tag for that and all of the other suggestions, though, would be just over $51 million during the next decade. 

Most of the $51 million would have to come from state coffers, although the new plan proposes a private developer build a $12 million hotel on the state fairgrounds at the Cowboy Drive entrance off Brownfield. State and other financing would have to cover the remaining $39 million. 

A master plan study was first commissioned by the Wyoming Department of Agriculture in 2002 to identify and prioritize needed facility improvements, many of which were implemented between 2004 to 2010. 

The new State Fair Board hired Markin Consulting LLC to develop a new master plan last June. For both studies, one of the major goals was to bring in more revenue throughout the year. 

“We truly believe that to be self sufficient we need to have a competitive edge as a facility,” WSF Director Courtny Conkle said. 

The biggest project at $8 million would be to enclose the Silver Arena, which is located directly east of the grandstands. Enclosing the outdoor arena, along with implementing a focused marketing and customer service plan, alone could generate up to $350,000, according to the study. Enclosing the arena would also eliminate bringing dirt in and out of the Livestock Pavilion for horse events, reducing the cost of maintaining and operating the Pavilion and freeing that building up for large trade show and exhibition events. 

Other markets that would be open to using the fairgounds include RV rallies, ag-related shows and exhibitions and dog agility events – all of which could generate $70,000- $90,000. 

Some of the other big ticket items on the proposed plan would be to cover the Yellow Arena east of the Silver Arena, to add 4,000 seats and wings to the grandstand, to replace the dairy barn and Vyve building with an exhibition building, to climatize the Pavilion for year-round use and to renovate the maintenance building. 

The projects would be done over 10 years but the actual implementation of any specific project is contingent on approval and funding by the state, the study concludes. It also includes a proposed short-term (1-3 years), mid-range (4-7 years) and long-term (8-10 years) schedule for the work. 

Enclosing the Silver Arena would be in the short-term list, while largest single mid-term item is the private hotel development. A $7 million exhibition building to replace the dairy barn and Vyve building tops the long-term project list in the plan. 

“Funding will be a collaborative and ongoing effort,” Conkle said. “We plan on incorporating what we can without any additional funding. In 2020, you will see layout changes, the addition of a digital sign and a short-term north-south connector, none of which will require any (state) general fund monies.” 

The plan also recommends upgrading the ventilation system in the Pepsi Equine Center, replacing two barns on the grounds, remove the Ft. Washakie building to create a parking area, add storage area to the McKibben Cafeteria building, gate and entry enhancements, pave driveways in the north parking lot and pave the remainder of the grandstand parking lot. 

The carnival, which was moved to west of the grandstands several years ago, will be moved back to the grassy area along the midway, possibly to allow more VIP parking and access to facilities on the west side of the fairgrounds along the river. 

“To put it simply, the master plan is what we want to be when we grow up,” Conkle said. “In the five year goals that I have outlined, I intend to have sold out grandstand shows by 2025, so by 2030 we truly believe that the demand will be enough to justify increasing the supply.”