Lake Co. Fair breaks ground on new youth and community center

friends and supporters of the fair line up with shovels for the groundbreaking.
Friends and supporters of the Lake County Fair line up with shovels to break ground on the new youth and community center, Dec. 19, in Painesville, Ohio. (Sarah Donaldson photo)

Starting in 2020, Lake County 4-H’ers will have a new youth and community center for year-round club meetings and fair exhibits, replacing a building built in the 1940s. The fair board broke ground on the building Dec. 19.

Fair board members estimate the center will be used by at least 30,000 people each year.


The new center will be a 7,200 square-foot building with heating and cooling, a catering kitchen and storage and utility rooms. It is 50% bigger than the building it is replacing.

Robert Dawson, director of the Lake County Fair board, said a year-round building with heating and cooling has been on the fair board’s list for a long time. In the last few years, as the economy improved and the board had funds available, it started to take shape.

“We really started realizing we could make it happen,” Dawson said.

The plan is to have it completed by fair time in 2020. The old building was demolished in November. Within a few weeks, the building contracts will be bid on, and Dawson hopes construction will start by mid-January.


The old building hosted junior fair and 4-H exhibits during fair weeks, seasonal events, like fall dances, and many 4-H club meetings outside of fair season.

The old building was probably getting used at least … four nights a week,” Dawson said.

But with no air conditioning, it was difficult to use in the summer, he said. And although there were heaters hung from the ceiling, it didn’t stay warm in the winter. That may be because it was originally an open pavilion, built in the 1940s. Years ago, the fair added walls to the pavilion when it needed indoor space.

“That’s pretty much where it stayed,” Dawson explained.

As the old 4-H building started to deteriorate, the board realized it wasn’t financially worth it to make repairs when they could build a new one instead. Based on how much the old building was used and the types of events the new youth center will be able to host, Dawson estimated that at least 30,000 people will use the building each year.


The building is expected to cost between $430,000-440,000. Dawson said the architect valued it at $490,000, but believes the final price is likely to be lower.

To pay for the building, the fair board secured a $150,000 County Development Block Grant and a $100,000 donation from the Lake County Visitors Bureau. They applied for and expect to receive a $50,000 capital grant from the Ohio Department of Agriculture, and are in negotiations for naming rights, which are expected to be upwards of $50,000.

The board is hoping to raise $100,000 through a grass roots campaign focusing on members and friends of the fair. The campaign kicked off Oct. 1 and has raised about 20% of its goal. The 4-H advisers committee and junior fair board have both already made significant donations, Dawson said.

“Everybody’s gonna have some ownership,” he said.


A fair board committee is currently looking into renting out the building once it is complete. Dawson said the board hopes to make enough rental income to pay for the building’s utilities. Based on comparisons to similar buildings, it looks doable.

Dawson said the board has already gotten calls from car manufacturers and dealers interested in hosting single-day conferences at the fairgrounds.


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