The Hamilton County Fairgrounds may soon receive significant upgrades.
Mussett Nicholas Associates has been hired by the Hamilton County Commissioners to create a master plan for the fairgrounds’ property at 2003 Pleasant St., Noblesville.
“The intent is to put together a master plan that will make sure that we maximize the available space that we have there and really start looking into life sciences and educational programs that are going to help our youth,” Hamilton County Commissioner Mark Heirbrandt said.
Heirbrandt said the master plan also will map updates to all the facilities to make them “state of the art”.
Heirbrandt said he expects the master plan to take three to six months to complete.
“It’s been 20-plus years since any types of improvements (have been made) out there to the fairgrounds,” Heirbrandt said. “We know we need to make an investment out there.”
Heirbrandt said life sciences and technology education will be priorities when updates to the fairgrounds are made.
“Technology is really changing the way we look at everything from (agriculture) business to things like technology, (which) now is a crucial part of it, and if you are not up to date with what’s available out there from software packages to different hybrids and things like that in the ag world, you’re missing out,” Heirbrandt said. “Really, we felt like we needed to take the next step and take this up to the 21st century.”
Heirbrandt said county officials are unsure of the total cost of improvements until after the master plan is completed, but he said if everything is completed that “needs to be done,” the project could cost in excess of $30 million. He said the project would be completed in phases.
Purdue Extension Service Hamilton County Extension Educator Susan Peterson said a volunteer committee has been working on the fairgrounds improvement project for more than seven years.
“Input was gathered from Extension programming groups, families that have been involved in programming for years, additional users of the grounds (such as other county partners and renters), Buildings and Grounds, 4-H Council and the Extension Board,” Peterson said. “This has been a long-term discussion on what not only meets the needs of Extension programming now but what it will look like around Life Sciences programming in the future?”
Peterson said the fairgrounds need to be flexible for a variety of uses.
“The first focus of request from the committee at this time is that we focus on upgrading some of the current facilities,” Peterson said. “We realize that a number of projects, such as Ind. 37 and Pleasant Street changes, affect this plan, so an overall plan will be determined to help us with this. Our first area to emphasize is technology upgrades and sound system upgrades.”
Mak Knowles, a volunteer committee participant and past Purdue Extension board member, said by first upgrading technology and audiovisual capabilities, visitors will have a better experience when attending events.
“The other biggest need is a new show arena to replace the existing outdoor show arena,” Knowles said. “Our goal is to build a year-round, modernized arena that will be versatile in its uses with the additional focus on life science programing.
“Visitors would benefit from new opportunities to participate in events and programing and a better-quality show arena during the fair.”
Heirbrandt said there might be opportunities for private investors with naming rights.
“We are looking at this a little differently in the fact that we never used a lot of naming rights and things like that to generate revenue there,” Heirbrandt said.
Heirbrandt said fundraising efforts might be similar to the Humane Society for Hamilton County’s construction project that was completed in 2021, with assistance from the community and the private sector.
“We are proud of the fairgrounds, the history, how well it has been cared for, but some upgrades and vision are needed as we move forward with our programming and for the usage of Hamilton County residents,” Peterson said.