Goal is to make sure Central Wisconsin State Fair stays in Marshfield long term
By Adam Hocking
MARSHFIELD — After deliberating in closed session, the Marshfield Common Council voted to approve purchasing land from the Central Wisconsin State Fair Association on Tuesday night.
The property that will now change hands is located near the intersection of 21st Street and Peach Avenue, east of the Paws N’ Play Dog Park. The land is currently used for soccer practices and other parks and recreation activities. The city will pay the fair association the assessed value of the property, which is $172,100.
The Central Wisconsin State Fair Association’s primary focus is to organize the Central Wisconsin State Fair each year. Central Wisconsin State Fair Executive Director Adam Fischer said that the association was amenable to selling the land to the city largely because it would help reduce the organization’s debt.
“Part of it was just our debt. We have a debt of $194,000 there, and so to bring that debt down and make it much more manageable we felt was a good business move for the Central Wisconsin State Fair,” Fischer said. He said the association’s debt would now be closer to $25,000 after the deal.
Fischer added that prior to this deal the city owned about 70 percent of the property in the fairgrounds with the fair association owning the other 30. He said that with this purchase of about 4.5 acres the city would now own closer to 75 percent of the land.
The property the city has now agreed to purchase, Fischer said, “is already being used probably 90 percent of the time if not more for city use.”
Mayor Chris Meyer said that the city securing the land is “integral to the success of the fairgrounds” and that it was a measure to ensure that a Central Wisconsin State Fair stays in Marshfield.
“The fair association is a nonprofit organization that’s not affiliated with the city. If they chose to go someplace else, they could liquidate that property, and we’d be without it,” Meyer said. “We want to make sure we preserve that property for fairgrounds use.”
The city will use a state trust fund loan to pay for the land.
Meyer said that the city does not anticipate much if any change in the use of the property. Meyer also said that the city may attempt to acquire more of the land currently possessed by the fair association and potentially look long-term at having the fair association contract to operate the fairgrounds.
“I’ve said over and over that I think it makes a lot of sense for us to have all of those properties as part of the fairgrounds park,” Meyer said. “Ideally the city would like to ensure that any of the properties used for the fair is part of the fairgrounds.”
“We’ll likely wait until a couple weeks after the fair to let everybody take a breath, but then we’ll be setting up meetings between city, county, and fair officials to talk about future issues and opportunities for all of us in making better use of the property, working together more cooperatively, those types of things,” said City Administrator Steve Barg.
Meyer said the city has little to do with the actual organizing of the fair but from an economic standpoint has a vested interest in ensuring that there is always a fair in Marshfield. Meyer and Barg both indicated that the city is not interested in developing the land and would principally use it for fair-related purposes.