Fair lands Impact Grant for grandstand seating


Visitors to grandstand events during this year’s Jackson County Fair will have new or renovated bleachers to sit upon thanks in part to a $100,000 grant from the Jackson County Visitor Center.

The visitor center board of directors recently voted to award the Jackson County Fair its 2021 Impact Grant.

The matching grant will help the fair board pay for work on the uncovered bleachers at both ends of the grandstand.

The plan for seating in Turn 1 is to put aluminum on top of the wooden bleachers, while all of the bleachers in Turn 4 will be replaced with aluminum seating.

The $200,000 project was implemented to address safety concerns with the existing bleachers that have been in place since the 1980s. Those bleachers also are not handicap-accessible, which is being addressed with the project.

One of the safety concerns was of people falling through the old bleachers.

“They will be all aluminum, they will look nice, they will be really safe and they’ll be handicap-accessible and have all of the proper aisles,” fair board member Matt Boknecht said while discussing the project during a fair board meeting in February.

“All of that old stuff was fine when it was built, but it’s truly not up to code now,” he said. “Now, we’ll be all up to code, and everything will be good. It will make it really nice when we have big crowds.”

The covered and uncovered parts of the grandstand are especially full during big Brownstown Speedway races, and there are some races and other events that draw large crowds during the Jackson County Fair the last week of July.

“More than anything, it’s to protect the spectators and protect the county and the commissioners,” Boknecht said. “During the fair, we have big crowds, and some of the racing events, we have big crowds.”

The hope is to reuse some of the bleachers from Turn 4 to add more seating in the pit grandstand on the opposite side of the racetrack and at the horse arena. The groups that oversee those areas will be able to fix the boards and maintain them.

Boknecht said the board talked about redoing the seating under the covered part of the grandstand, too, but decided to do the project in stages. The first stage is to replace or redo the bleachers in the uncovered areas.

This project is part of the continued improvements at the fairgrounds.

The visitor center established the one-time Impact Grant to have a direct impact on Jackson County and tourism.

The grant aims to enhance the quality of the experience of the visitors to Jackson County and in turn the quality of life for county residents.

The grant was approved following a review and recommendation by the visitor center grant committee. The committee also received a request from Child Care Network for renovations to its planned child care building. As a part of the current project, they are planning to develop space for conference, meeting and convention use.

“The Jackson County Visitor Center is excited to award our 2021 Impact Grant to the Jackson County Fair,” said Arann Banks, executive director of the visitor center.

“The Jackson County Fair is our county’s most attended event of the year, and we are thrilled to play a significant part in improving and enhancing the visitor experience,” she said. “With improvement to the grandstand seating, our race visitors will also be able to more safely enjoy their Jackson County experience.”

Jackson County Fair grandstand chairman Mark Norman thanked the visitor center and said it will bring a needed improvement to the fair grandstands.

“We are thankful to the visitor center board for selecting the Jackson County Fair as the recipient of the 2021 Impact Grant,” he said. “With these grant dollars and our match, we will be able to make a significant improvement to our fair, which already has an existing reputation as one of the best in the state.”

Greg Prange, a member of the visitor center grant committee, said choosing which organization receives a grant from several worthy applicants is always a difficult task.

“The Impact Grant is the ‘granddaddy’ of all of our grants,” he said. “The Jackson County Fair grandstand project is one that will benefit both the residents of and the visitors to Jackson County. Our fair is touted as one of the best in the Midwest, and thousands upon thousands of visitors come to visit every year.”

The grandstands are filled every night, and the condition of the current seats is a safety issue, Prange said.

“We look forward to the safety and comfort that this improvement will bring to all visitors to the Jackson County Fairgrounds,” he said.

The formal check presentation for the funds will be conducted during the visitor center board’s May 19 meeting.

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