The Domestic Arts Building will get a new roof and various locations around the state fairgrounds will be repaved this summer, but plans for a remodel of Expo II have been put off until after the 2020 fair.
The Kansas State Fair Board on Wednesday also authorized the fair’s contracted architect to develop artist renderings for redevelopment of the Bison Arena and agreed to support giving land in the northwest corner of the fairgrounds to the city of Hutchinson for construction of a new fire station.
Plans are to swap the land where the existing fire station is at 20th and Main as a potential future hotel site.
The estimate for the Domestic Arts roof is $35,000, board member and building committee chairman Ron Hinrichsen advised the board.
“It’s in dire need of a new roof,” Hinrichsen said, with many of the screws in the current roof coming loose and the roof leaking in numerous places.
The cost for summer paving inside the fairgrounds is estimated at $135,000. A significant portion of that is in the area where the carnival sets up, so funds the carnival adds annually to a maintenance fund can be tapped for more than half the cost, Hinrichsen said.
The board also heard a request for up to $35,000 to install three Big Ass-brand fans in the Prairie Pavilion to significantly improve air circulation. A request will be made to the Kansas Fairgrounds Foundation for that money.
On Oct. 1, the board had agreed to seek bids on a $1 million upgrade to the Expo II livestock arena, to be funded by retained sales tax.
Officials subsequently learned, however, that the fire protection system on the 53-year-old building needs to be upgraded, which wasn’t included in the plans among the structural and mechanical improvements.
“Due to the timing and the state asking us to upgrade the fire system, it will be put out to bid in the Spring — April or May — with start of construction right after the fair,” Hinrichsen said.
Gary Holler, vice president and an architect with Shaffer, Johnson, Cox and Fry of Wichita, played an illustrated video for the board of the Bison Arena, showing the existing building and potential uses for the massive space. The video, Holler suggested, could be used for marketing the site when seeking donors for the improvements.
The video includes a “flyover” of a 3-D model and drawings showing how it might be divided up.
Exterior improvements will include new windows, tuckpointing and a new roof. Inside will be a new concrete floor and a subdivision of the space into an education center, museum and “whatever else you might want to have in there.”
Holler’s presentation also included renderings of other buildings the company has done or is working on, including a pair of Derby schools and an Eck Stadium expansion. He had drawings of Wichita’s new baseball stadium but couldn’t use them because they included names for naming rights at the facility that haven’t been revealed.
“The main components are the education center and birthing center, but it’s a bigger building than those two will need,” said fair board general manager Robin Jennison. “Between now and the January board meeting I’d like you to think about the components you might like to see in Bison. Be creative with it. It’s a big space that will be an open canvas when we start.”
Board member Patty Clark suggested fair staff create a survey for the public to give its input.
“People have history there,” she said. “So let’s ask them about its future use. We may get feedback on ideas we may not have thought of, and if we get the public involved in its planned use, they will also build support for advocacy.”
The board unanimously approved authorizing $8,000 to the architectural firm to create conceptual plans to take to the Legislature.
Plans are to seek bonds to pay for the improvements, to be sold after existing bonds are paid off in 2024.
“The state is paying $900,000 a year for bonding for the work we did in early 2000,” Jennison said. “Let’s have the Bison ready to go to follow up on that. Then, rather than have bond payments go to zero and then bring them back, we can get the Bison in the chain and to take up after that.”
Hutchinson Fire Chief Steve Beers attended the board meeting to give an update on the fire station plans and get assurances from the board it agreed with the land swap suggested by Jennison.
The city sought a larger footprint for the station so trucks could drive around the facility to park in the truck bays, rather than have to continue to back trucks in off Main Street.
“When we began discussions about a hotel on the grounds, this was the best spot to do it,” Jennison said of the site of the existing fire station. “It’s better for us if the fire station wasn’t there. We can put the hotel anywhere, but this is a beautiful corner.”
Plans are to give up the ground to the north, which is currently occupied during the fair by several longtime boat and RV vendors, while the new station is built. When it’s finished, the old station would be demolished and the fair will reclaim that ground.
There’s another area north of the desired spot, between the RV campgrounds and the Midway, where the vendors who’ve attended the fair for 25 to 30 years could potentially be moved, the board was advised.
The Hutchinson City Council approved funding in its 2020 budget for conceptual drawings of the new fire station, with construction dollars likely in the 2021 Capital Improvements Program budget and the station opening in 2022.
“Station 1 is our busiest station in the city out of the six stations we have,” Beers said, including 37 runs this year during the fair. “Its location is a prime aspect of that.”
Moving the station a couple of blocks north might even improve its rating by ISO inspectors, who determine the city’s fire insurance rates, helping the city maintain the 1 rating it achieved this year.
At board chairwoman Virginia Crossland-Macha’s suggestion, the board approved a motion that the fair work with the fire department to relocate the station to the spot agreed to by Beers and Jennison.