State fair, city continue to push state for Stewart

Carson City and state fair officials have taken their request for a fairgrounds in Stewart to the governor's office.

Officials from both agencies as well as Sen. Mark Amodei and Assemblywoman Bonnie Parnell met Tuesday with the governor's chief of staff, Marybel Batjer, seeking permission for the city to move its fairgrounds to the old Indian school in South Carson. State fair officials are unhappy with their situation at the Reno Livestock Convention Center and say if they stay in Reno, the fair will die.

Batjer said the meeting, for her, was "purely informational." She said she will review the information presented and give state fair and city officials some indication of the state's decision by mid-January.

"It's an issue that has been before our state lands people, and I wanted to be more informed," she said. "(City and state fair officials) need to know whether it's an option for the state to consider.

"There's a lot of history here I need to review; I'm not going to say I'm making the decision, the governor's making a decision or Pam (Wilcox) is making a decision. I need to be up to date on the discussion of what's taken place. There's a lot that needs to be considered before we get to a yes no type answer."

State fair board members Larry Pedrett and Gary Derks met with Wilcox, administrator of the state public lands division, in November to discuss the potential state fair relocation. Wilcox has said repeatedly Stewart is not available for such development. The fair members' request was denied, as was Carson City's before it.

Despite state official's insistence they plan to develop Stewart, Amodei and Parnell said legislators haven't been able to secure funds to do more than minimal maintenance on the site and Carson City's offer to improve the infrastructure and restore the historical buildings with the proposed fairgrounds relocation may be a benefit to the state.

"We have a hard time trying to maintain the status quo just to prevent demolition by decay," Amodei said. "I think it is a way to bring seven-figure investment into the infrastructure at Stewart, which is something through the budgetary process at the state level we have been unable to do for a long time."

"It's a shame it's been allowed to disintegrate," Parnell agreed. "We've been talking about what to do with that facility for a long time. It's just falling apart, and this is an opportunity for renovation to get those buildings back up where they once were. This would be a great state/city partnership. If we could host the state fair, that would be wonderful."

Amodei said considering the state has more than 100 acres in Carson available for building construction, those who have asked to use Stewart deserve more of an excuse than "just plain no."

"Some of the state's questions (are) why would this be a good thing for the state to do? Why would it make the state look good? What assurances are there that it will be a good thing?" he said. "(City and fair officials) have some excellent points for what this would do for Stewart in a brick and mortar sense, in the infrastructure sense. There's a ton of potential out there. Unfortunately, we have not been able to realize that potential through the budgetary realities of the last 15 years."

Stewart tops the list of sites for a proposed relocation of the Carson City fairgrounds. Once the site of one of the West's largest Indian schools, Stewart is deemed an ideal location because of its Fuji Park-like attributes such as mature trees and a creek. The city's plan would wrap the fairgrounds around 32 acres of existing facilities and includes between $4 million and $6 million in improvements. City officials have until Jan. 17 to determine a site for the fairgrounds, and Berkich said he stressed to Batjer the deadline in which he and other officials are working.

"At this point, we're just looking for an approval in concept," he said. "What we need at this point is an affirmative commitment from the administration that they agree on pursuing this."

Berkich said if Stewart fails to become an option for the fairgrounds, then the city will look at other sites in east Carson prioritized for the potential relocation.

"We hope we've made the case this is a great opportunity for the state, the fair, for the region and for Carson City," he said.


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