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Large Turnout for Committee Meeting on Stadium, Fairgrounds

Daniel Prince

Committee will tweak ordinance before putting it up for a vote

In a crowded room filled with members of the Union County Fair Board, Union County Booster Club, Coon Hunters Association, and other interested parties, the Union County Council Committee on Law Enforcement, Judiciary, and Recreation met Thursday afternoon to discuss a proposed ordinance that would change and enhance the use of the stadium and fairgrounds to further tourism in Union County.
At the beginning of the meeting, Fair Board member Dudley Adams asked the committee to table the ordinance until next year when the new administration comes in. Dr. John Flood responded, saying he doesn’t think there will ever be an ideal time to have the discussion, but it needed to take place. He stated he was not in favor of putting the fair board under the direction of the Tourism Commission, but he did strongly feel that collaboration with Tourism is needed. Flood stated that the stadium commission had not functioned effectively in several years and had not had any recent appointees in anticipation of this type of discussion. Flood proposed that since the fairgrounds and stadium are conjoined properties, that the functions of the fair board and stadium commission be combined.

Paul Winters, executive director of the fair association, agreed, stating that he felt the fair board should be allowed to continue to run the fairgrounds and the fair and then bring in the help that the stadium personnel could provide, and not put more on the Tourism Commission’s plate. He stated that the group has evolved over the past couple of years and is collaborating much more closely with entities such as the Tourism Commission and Coon Hunters Association and others. Winters said he doesn’t feel like the fair board has a problem with going through the county’s budgeting and procurement processes, but they weren’t consulted when this idea first came up, and some things in the proposed ordinance were concerning to them.

Roger Bailey brought back up the stadium commission, asking why weren’t the members of the stadium commission who weren’t attending meetings removed per county policy and replaced with people who wanted to serve in that capacity. Others in the crowd agreed, stating that Supervisor Frank Hart, as an ex-officio member of the commission, should have been taking steps to correct the problem. Hart said the problem was that the ordinance that created the stadium commission wasn’t clear as to the commission’s duties to begin with, so no one really knew what they were supposed to be doing, and it ended up serving as more of an advisory committee to Stadium Manager Ronnie Wade.

Hart stated that all of the proposed changes stemmed from prior conversations he had with Paul Winters about allowing them to focus on the fair and putting on a great fair. He said as one of the county’s premier events, the fair was not going anywhere, and the intent was never for anyone other than the fair board to have control of the fair. He said he had no problem with Dr. Flood’s and Winters’ suggestion of combining the fairgrounds and stadium in that way, but he said that will take a much bigger commitment from the fair board to operate things year-round. He said he still felt like the fair, stadium, and tourism should all be combined, because the mission of each was to bring people into the county for events and usage of the facilities, and one thing that holds back a smaller county like Union is the idea of “my money and your money”. He said it’s all Union County, and working together for the benefit of all will help move the county forward.

Winters mentioned that combining forces with the stadium personnel will have benefits such as being able to utilize inmate labor for general maintenance issues rather than having to pay someone to come in and do it. He also said that Sue Cudd’s duties could evolve to where she could be the one handling the booking of the fairgrounds and stadium, and not have to burden tourism with that task, while still collaborating with them on events and ideas.

Tourism Director Curtiss Hunter stated this has never been about tourism taking over the fair. She says the Tourism Commission supports events that bring people into Union. She applauded Hart for putting together the events committee in the wake of COVID to bring stakeholders to the table to find ways to collaborate and bring events to the county. She said Tourism did not make the decision to pursue this ordinance, but that she would abide by whatever was decided, whether she personally agreed with it or not.
Steven Stone with the Coon Hunters Association said his group works with many different entities to make the events it puts on successful. He said communication is the key, and getting the stakeholders at the table together is vital to that communication. He said he is hearing that pretty much everyone in attendance is in favor of some sort of change. He said he did feel that tourism has to be a part of all of it to aid in the communication and collaboration. He said if nothing else, they need to have someone representing them as an ex-officio member of the fair board.

In the end, Dr. Flood made a motion that the council committee meet again to go through and revise the ordinance to better reflect the stakeholders in attendance, and not move forward with the ordinance as currently written. The committee voted unanimously to approve the motion. They did not set a date for the next meeting.

WBCU News asked Committee Chair Tracie Farr Campbell what she took away from the meeting:

(audio below story)

Tracie Campbell on her thoughts about the meeting
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