Woodward, Okla. —
The Woodward Chamber of Commerce has begun efforts to encourage county residents to approve a sales tax increase to improve the Woodward County Fairgrounds.
Monday's monthly Chamber luncheon was completely centered around the proposed Fairgrounds Improvement Project, which includes renovating some of the current fair barns as well as constructing a new 60,000 square foot expo center.
Chamber President C. J. Montgomery kicked off the luncheon by discussing how the current fairground facilities are "in dire need of renovations," both because of their age and because of their role as a venue for many important events.
Montgomery then hailed the county commissioners as "forward-thinking" for their decision Monday morning to propose a half-cent sales tax increase to fund the Fairgrounds Improvement Project. Voters will have the opportunity to approve or reject the half-cent tax during an election on Feb. 12, 2013.
Montgomery said the election will give "residents the opportunity to make those long overdue and much needed renovations possible."
ARCHITECT DISCUSSES PROPOSED PROJECT DESIGNS
Project architect Heath Hans, who is a principal with Architects in Partnership, was on hand for the Chamber meeting to discuss some of the renovation details.
Hans explained that the oldest fair barn, referred to as Building 2, will be removed and replaced with a covered pavilion, which could be used for vendor space during trade shows or as an animal tie out area for livestock shows.
The Building 1 and Building 3 fair barns would be completely renovated after stripping them down "essentially to their metal frames," and then re-skinning them, placing new insulation inside, and updating the electrical service as well as ventilation and exhaust in both fair barns, so they are "basically like new," but with some cost savings, Hans said.
Hans then described the new expo center and how it would include a large, open-expanse multi-purpose arena. The new facility would also include some space for OSU Extension Center and District Attorney's offices to replace their current office complex, which he indicated was "not well-designed" for the agencies' needs.
In designing the new and improved Woodward County Fairgrounds and Expo Center, Hans said his firm was "not just tasked with designing new facilities, but we were tasked with trying to create facilities that could host a multitude of events, including the ones you already hold as well as attract new events."
He said he believes his design accomplishes that, as well as having enough space to accommodate growth of the events that are held there so that the new fairgrounds could "serve you for 30, 40, 50 years into the future."
"We're very excited that this morning, commissioners passed a resolution that will put this project before the people for a vote on Feb. 12," Hans said.
He then addressed the Chamber members saying, "we will definitely need your support as this goes forward."
To help voters to make up their minds on the issue, Hans said "we will hold several informational community meetings in the next 60 days leading up to the vote."
STATE FFA ADVISOR SUPPORTS PROJECT
The guest speaker for Monday's Chamber luncheon was Jack Staats, the state advisor for the Oklahoma FFA Organization, who quickly voiced his support of the fairgrounds project.
"I want this project selfishly for the young people I represent," Staats said, referring to the hundreds of FFA students who have the opportunity to participate in the Northwest District Livestock Show that is held at the Woodward County Fairgrounds every spring.
Staats noted that the Northwest Oklahoma FFA District includes 11 counties, 28 schools and over 1,200 active FFA students within those schools.
He said there are hundreds more 4-H students across those counties who also have the opportunity to take part in the Northwest District Livestock Show.
The Fairgrounds Improvement Project will benefit these FFA and 4-H students in particular because it will ensure that the Woodward County Fairgrounds will be able to continue to hold the ever-growing Northwest District Livestock Show for many years to come.
Staats said this continued support of local youth is important because communities, especially small towns, depend on future generations for their own future.
"Towns that are successful are the ones that are able to dynamically reinvent and reinvest in themselves and give themselves an advantage to survive," he said.
By moving forward with the fairgrounds project, Staats said he believes that Woodward can continue to be a progressive community because it means investing in the youth.
He said he also believes the project will mean leaving a lasting and "impactful legacy."
And he encouraged county residents to consider that legacy when it comes time to vote on the sales-tax increase.
"What will this building mean to Woodward 10 years from now, 20 years from now, 30 or 40?" Staats said.
Because while he selfishly wants a great facility for his FFA students, Staats said he also wants a great facility that many other groups can enjoy and benefit from. And he wants a facility that will help this region continue to continue to see progress and vitality.
"I selfishly want this project for all of Northwestern Oklahoma and Western Oklahoma because I believe this is an as aggressive and progressive part of the state as there is," he said.