Mesa County officials and the public met Tuesday to discuss possible changes at the Mesa County Fairgrounds.
The fairgrounds is an area that many community members call home to Little League, gardens, and rodeos. But county officials call it an area that's difficult to maintain. They say according to their latest study, the fairgrounds needs more than $10 million in repairs to keep it in a state so groups will continue using it. They say they don't have that kind of money.
"It competes with law enforcement and it competes with transportation," said Tom Fisher, the County Regional Services Director. "In a growing community those things usually win out."
So when contractor Reed Mitchell came to them with a plan for a new five thousand seat arena within the fairgrounds, that could be paid for by private funds, both the city and the county were interested.
"I think it's a right of passage for a growing community to have a civic arena," said Mitchell. "Grand Junction is long overdue."
Mitchell hopes the arena will also spark the interests of the community.
"We're interested in bringing a minor league hockey team here, possibly a minor league basketball team," said Mitchell. "I know we're going to have a wide variety of concerts and indoor events that we just can't have here right now."
But for several residents, it may take some convincing. Groups like 4-H have used the fairgrounds for events and meetings for years. They say they're worried about what the new facility could do to the future of their group.
"The facilities here are free of charge for us and we're concerned about the cost of those same facilities in the arena," said Lisa Pfalzgraff, a 4-H member.
Other groups say they're worried about what the change could mean for the time and effort they've put into parts of the fairgrounds.
"We have written over fifty-three thousand dollars in grant money that came back to support the arboretum and the gardens here," said Sylvia Sharpe, a member of the Western Colorado Gardening Foundation. "So we have a vested interest in what happens to the property."
County officials say those concerns are exactly why they wanted to hold a meeting tonight. They say they want plans to work out so that everyone benefits.
"All the different groups that use this facility will have something new," said Fisher.
They say they also want to make plans work out to keep parts of the park like the little league fields, the arboretum, and the veterans memorial just the way they are.
"They've had set facilities for a very long time," said Fisher. "There's no real reason to move them.
Community members say if the county can really do all that, then they're more than happy to support this project.
"I believe the community could really benefit from an events center," said Pfalzgraff.
The county says at this point nothing is set in stone and that they won't move forward on any plans for a new arena until at least this summer. Until then, they're asking for more public input on the future of the historic Mesa County site.
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