As repairs to the historic grandstand at the Grand Forks County Fairgrounds press on, the grandstand committee is discussing a formal business plan for the fairgrounds to raise money in a sustainable fashion.
The ball is now in the fair board's court. Tom Ford, director of administration for the county, and County Commissioner Diane Knauf will have a meeting with the fair board in the next couple of weeks.
"It really goes back on the fair board at this point and they need to take the lead," Ford said.
Kristi Wilfahrt, interim executive director of the Pembina Gorge Foundation, will potentially head up fundraising for the long-term repairs needed for the grandstand. She has not decided whether she will lead fundraising, but attended the grandstand committee meeting Wednesday to discuss ideas.
Emergency repairs were made to the grandstand last summer. Short-term repairs are currently being done by Sand Steel Building Company in order to have the grandstand ready for racing season.
The grandstand committee is still looking for ways to fund long-term repairs that would make it usable for years to come.
Wilfahrt said in order for the grandstand committee to get the money it needs for restoring the grandstand, the group needs to find at least four people or groups to donate $1 million each.
"We're looking at asking donors for major money to fix up this historical landmark and these donors are asking relevant questions, like what is our business plan and how will it be sustained so my investment isn't squandered, for lack of a better word?" Ford said.
Wilfahrt emphasized the importance of getting a business plan in place to start fundraising.
"Without a business plan, to me, it doesn't sound like donors are interested in donating to fix up the grandstand," Ford said. "The county has to communicate that to the fair board and see what they want to do."
Wilfahrt suggested the board look for other ways the fairgrounds can be used throughout the year. Ford and other members of the committee talked about the need to communicate that the fairgrounds are available for the community to use, ranging from car shows to barrel racing to rummage sales.
"This needs to be opened up to the community. There are so many other stakeholders than just the county and the fair board," Ford said.
Wilfahrt also suggested that the group look at other successful fairgrounds in North Dakota and Minnesota.
The committee discussed potentially eliminating the gate fee for the fair or offering some sort of discount to encourage more people to attend. That happens at other county fairs in the region.