Minnehaha County Commission looking into future of W.H. Lyon Fairgrounds

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Published: Jan. 18, 2022 at 4:25 PM CST
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SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (Dakota News Now) - The Minnehaha County Commission is laying out the next steps in deciding the future of the W.H. Lyon Fairgrounds.

Tuesday, they considered a resolution that would establish a task force to review and set a new vision for the fairgrounds. The commissioners will discuss that resolution in further detail next week, at which point they’ll decide on specifics, such as a deadline for task force applications. A process that has already drawn some early interest.

The commission estimates more than 600,000 people attend at least one event at the fairgrounds each year. With that amount of traffic, Minnehaha County Commissioner Jeff Barth says it’s important to keep the fairgrounds up.

While some renovations have been done there over the years, Barth says the fairgrounds are beginning to show their age.

“There have been large investments there in the past, and some of those investments have been deteriorating,” Barth said.

This is why the County Commission has made it a mission to tackle something that’s been talked about for quite some time.

“This should not be done behind closed doors, and I’ll do my best to make sure it isn’t,” Barth said.

Steve Munk, a longtime fair board member and 4-H leader from Dell Rapids, voiced his support for the move at Tuesday’s meeting.

“It’s really pleasing to see the commissioners take the lead on this, to look at the future and the direction of the fair, and where we’re going,” Monk said.

Barth says the Sioux Empire Fair bounced back in 2021, but the fairgrounds have become a bit of a “money pit.”

“The fair does not make money for the county,” Barth said. “We pay the fair board, we contract with the fair board to manage the fair for us; they do their best but they’ve had issues in the past.”

Though there have been inquiries from private businesses to buy the property, Barth says the commission doesn’t intend to sell the land... in part, because it was gifted to the county in the 1930s.

“It’s not so easy as to just say we’re going to sell it, the legal ramifications are great,” Barth said.

Meanwhile, the process to set the future vision may take a year or more.

“This is going to be a lot of work, it’s going to be a heavy lift, and it’s going to get into the weeds pretty far,” Minnehaha County Commissioner Dean Karsky said.

The Minnahaha County Commission Office says task force members must be representative of community stakeholders with no identifiable conflict of interest.

Task force meetings will be open to the public and the commissioners encourage residents to attend. The next County Commission meeting is Tuesday, January 25, at the Minnehaha County Administration building in downtown Sioux Falls.

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