The fate of what many Boone County residents know as the fairgrounds is up in the air. The Central Missouri Events Center Review Board Committee met Wednesday for the first time at the grounds to begin plans for the future of the county-owned space.
The property was closed by Boone County earlier this year after residents rejected a proposed sales tax to benefit county parks and recreation last August, leaving the county few options for funding major repairs at the site.
County commissioner Dan Atwill led the meeting, which included local leaders including Columbia Mayor Bob McDavid, Former University of Missouri Athletic Director Mike Alden, and former Missouri Governor Roger Wilson.
Atwill began the meeting by encouraging the committee to focus on the future, not dwell on the history of the site. The central location of the property, which sits at 5212 N. Oakland Gravel Road just north of Columbia, is one of its major assets, he said.
Wednesday’s meeting focused on possible future uses of the 130-acre events center land, including expanding existing baseball fields, adding soccer fields and facilities to support youth sport tournaments, and working in conjunction with local businesses or developers. The committee also discussed ways to fund these projects, like raising hotel occupancy taxes or soliciting private investment.
The Boone County Fair will take place at the grounds later this month, but will not return to the space next year. Jeff Cook, President of the Boone County Fair Board, urged the committee not to forget about local 4-H and FFA student groups who rely on the fairgrounds as a space to compete at the county-wide level.
“Not all kids play sports,” he said. “We are so blessed with what we have out here and that it could be utilized for all walks of people. And that’s what they need to keep in focus, not just one walk of people.”
No decisions were made at today’s meeting, but James Whitt, president of the Columbia School Board and a member of the committee, said today was just the first step and the committee will seek feedback from the public as they continue planning.