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Fairgrounds Renovation to Start Soon

by Randy Pierce

tribune@heraldpubs.com

Above, the Belle-Fair Fairgrounds as they currently stand, they are scheduled for renovation in March or April of this year.

Visible signs of a major renovation project upgrading Belle-Clair Fairgrounds in Belleville should be seen in the next few weeks as, if all goes as planned, the first step regarding preliminary work on the installation of a new roof on the Exposition Building at this location is expected to start sometime in March or April.

St. Clair County Director of Buildings James S. Brede, while noting the improvements are by and large being financed by $14 million in federal American Rescue Plan Act funds, noted the timeline additionally consists of changes to the main entry road into the Fairgrounds property, construction of a new 6000-square-foot wood-framed, metal-sided maintenance and storage shed and replacing the heating, air conditioning, plumbing and ventilation equipment plus the electrical system.

The Fairgrounds property has for many decades served as the location for numerous public events such as a monthly flea market, a site for construction trades professionals to share career information with local area high school students, shows featuring antiques, crafts, hobby items, automobilia, woodcarver creations, brewery-related collectibles, guns and weaponry and, more recently, hosting Southern Illinois Championship Wrestling matches.

As part of the renovation, the St. Clair County Public Building Commission has authorized entering into a contract with Hurford Architects Inc. of Glen Carbon for a facilities and grounds study in order to determine specifically what needs to be done to bring the property, which has not received any such attention for quite some time, up to safe, efficient and manageable contemporary standards.

The master agreement with the Hurford firm, to include requirement provisions related to insurance coverage and other legal aspects of the project, is structured so that it can be amended as necessary while forward progress is being made.

As noted in a proposal from Hurford, the project goal for the 23-acre site is to “create a viable attraction for St. Clair County” through the improvement, use or relocation of structures on the property which include not only the Exposition Building but also the entry gates, livestock area to the rear of it and more.

Among the other many items being looked at are improvements to vehicular circulation including delivery access, pedestrian movement, parking areas with landscape islands, a new “gate house” near the entryway. restrooms which would be accessible from outside the Exposition Building and walkways.

A majority of the St. Clair County Board approved the purchase of the Fairgrounds property in December 2022 after having utilized the site during the prior couple of years for mass vaccinations related to the coronavirus pandemic.

The PBC, which Brede reports to about various projects such as this, the county jail and the administration building in Belleville, acts as an agent for the property owners, just as it does for MidAmerica St. Louis Airport, regarding much of what occurs at these locations including structural and maintenance matters.

The Horner and Shifrin engineering firm of St. Louis has been contracted to perform a traffic study related to this project that will include an analysis of vehicular movement and is anticipated to lead to recommendations for related improvements.

The information generated from this aspect of the project, which also involves the Illinois Department of Transportation because the Fairgrounds fronts on a state highway, Route 13, will be the projected outcome of a fee of $38,000 being paid to Horner and Shifrin for its work which is also to include analysis of traffic at other nearby intersections, a total of six altogether, such as South Illinois and South Church.

A third business that is getting involved in this project is G & W Engineering of Maryland Heights, Missouri which will be providing services related to the heating, cooling, mechanical, electrical and plumbing aspects of the renovations for both the existing 53,500-square-foot Exposition Building and the 34,500 square feet of structural additions that are planned so that the provisions of all applicable codes, including fire protection, are met.   

The aforementioned $14 million going toward this project, which will additionally cover a share of the construction costs, comes from the same program which a couple years ago provided personal “stimulus checks” to the nation’s residents from a $1.9 trillion economic package as proposed by President Joe Biden to speed up the United States’ recovery from the economic and health effects of the coronavirus pandemic and the subsequent ongoing recession.

That federal legislation, after being reviewed and acted upon at various levels in Washington, D.C., was passed by the United States House of Representatives on March 10, 2021, by a vote of 220–211 then signed into law by President Biden the next day which was the first anniversary of COVID-19 being declared a global pandemic by the World Health Organization.

4 Comments

  1. Anonymous on February 26, 2024 at 11:49 am

    We have seen the Renderings of where they want to move the racetrack but I think we are all concerned that once the track is leveled it will never go back up. Not sure why we are not able to just knock down the current grandstands and put up new ones in its place. Build a concession stand and new restrooms and open the gates.

    The first few years that the track opens back up it is going to be PACKED!!! As now it will be the only track that competes on Friday nights as Tri City has went to a “Limited Schedule”.

    The economic boom that this will have on the local business is going to help bring in tax money to Belleville and even trickle down to Fairview Heights and other close cities.

  2. Anonymous on February 25, 2024 at 7:42 pm

    Yes,where’s any mention of a new track and how much better it will be to pack stands again on a hot Friday night.the track should be first on the list…the building and parking lot are fine…..update entry to fairgrounds…let’s get this going.we been listening. . .now it’s time to see action….like a cold beer and hot fish sandwich during hot laps…..

  3. Anonymous on February 25, 2024 at 5:43 pm

    No mention of the racetrack in this article? That’s the only reason many of us even know about the Fairgrounds.

  4. Anonymous on February 22, 2024 at 8:58 pm

    I hope they have enough money left over from those improvements to renovate the stands at the Belclair Speedway.Talking to a former driver at the track they need not expand the track from a fifth mile to a quarter mile but concentrate on improvement of facilities for race car parking.

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