Warren County Fair to host another year without event center

A traveling circus was set up this week where Warren County had hoped to have a new event center ready for the county fair in July.

It will be the second year the annual county fair will go on without the event center or the grandstands that were demolished to make way for the new facilities.

“It’ll be a very important component when we get it completed,” said Gene Steiner, president of the Warren County Agricultural Society, better known as the fair board.

The event center has been delayed by cost overruns. Construction has yet to begin.

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“The building itself is not the issue. It is the other components that get added on,” Steiner added, pointing to water lines and stormwater management features required by the city of Lebanon and expected to add hundreds of thousands of dollars to construction costs.

“We are very close to having it nailed down,” Steiner said on Tuesday.

The delay enabled the Kelly Miller Circus to perform on Tuesday and Wednesday where work was to have begun on the $3.4 million event center.

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During fair week, the area where the circus was set up — and the event center is to be located — will have tents where vendors will hawk food, goods and services to fairgoers.

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Portable restrooms will be available in the absence of new restroom facilities that are to be part of the new event center.

This year’s fair will be held from July 16-July 21.

Becky Osborne, fair board director, said the delay was unlikely to affect attendance.

Drag and harness races, tractor pulls, a rodeo and demolition derby are all on this year’s schedule.

“Folks come for the events,” she said.

Part of the hold-up involves keeping project costs within the $3.4 million budget with Conger Construction, already under contract to complete the project, Deputy County Administrator Martin Russell said.

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The 97-acre fairgrounds includes a series of barns, several of which have been added or upgraded. While horse racing has moved to the racino west of Lebanon, horses are stabled in barns off the backstretch of the track.

Before racinos were legalized in Ohio, the horse-betting was conducted at the fairgrounds on harness races held on the oval track or simulcasted onto screens in the grandstands.

The fairgrounds is undergoing a major makeover, prompted by the end of the harness racing era at the facility in downtown Lebanon.

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The county has committed $4.5 million, $3 million from the owners of the Miami Valley Gaming racino and $1.5 million from state racetrack redevelopment funds.

In addition to the racino contribution, money for the event center is to come from $400,000 in state capital funding, Russell said.

Steiner looked forward to completion.

“We are excited to break open this new event center when it’s done. Unfortunately it will not be completed for this fair,” Steiner said. “We’re going to do this one time. We’re going to make sure we do it properly.”

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