The State Fairgrounds is in the midst of a paving project that will eventually encompass much of the walking and display area familiar to fairgoers.
The first phase of an asphalt overlay project is centered at the north end of the fairgrounds. Construction crews from On Point Excavating of Surrey are initially working in the area of the Commerical II building to the State Fair Center. The area includes the location where farm machinery is displayed and three-on-three basketball courts are erected for the fair.
A portion of the first phase of the overlay project has resulted in digging down below existing asphalt to improve the grade so water will flow better off the new surface. It is the first upgrade of State Fairgrounds asphalt since the 2011 flood. Completion of the first phase of the three-phase project is expected by July 1. The 2014 State Fair opens July 18.
A large paved area near the Commercial II building on the State Fairgrounds is undergoing a change of grade to improve drainage and appearance. Ten inches of gravel will be topped by new asphalt before the State Fair opens July 18.
Workers fill cracks in the parking lot that is home to “machinery row” during the State Fair. The area is scheduled to receive an overlay of new asphalt.
"A day or two after the State Fair we'll start on the east side of the State Fair Center and go south past the Flickertail Gardens to the south side of the grandstand," said Craig Rudland, assistant general manager. "It has needed to be done for a number of years."
In addition to hosting "machinery row" during the State Fair, the lot provides parking throughout the year for various events hosted at the State Fair Center. The state of North Dakota has allocated $2.7 million toward the cost of the $3.5 million dollar project. The State Fair is responsible for the difference.
According to Rudland, striping of the newly paved area will not be done until the fair runs its course July 18-26.
"Right after the fair it will be back to a parking lot," said Rudland.
The final phase of the asphalt overlay project from the south side of the grandstand to Burdick Expressway will be bid later this summer.
"We're hoping to get that completed by freeze-up," said Rudland. "We are all kind of holding our breath to see what the weather does this fall. It's a huge project."
Another possible improvement to the State Fairgrounds has yet to be approved by the fair's board of directors. The North Dakota Game and Fish Department, which operates the popular Conservation and Outdoor Skills Park, would like to construct a new building at the site. The building would not only house a new air rifle range that would be a substantial upgrade from the 20-year-old facility that was damaged during the 2011 flood, it would be a four-seasons building capable of hosting additional functions.
"It would be an air rifle range during the fair but also with a classroom that can be divided into four stations, one big room with moveable panels," said Greg Gullickson, NDG&F. "There's a shortage of room for hunter education classes. This would allow quite a few more."
According to Gullickson, the proposed building would serve as a meeting place for area wildlife clubs, 4-H groups, area scout packs and other interested organizations. Game and Fish owns the buildings at the Conservation and Outdoors Skills Park. The State Fair owns the land. The proposal for the new structure is expected to be considered during the fair board meeting in June.
The centerpiece of the Conservation and Skills Park is the State Fair Pond. The pond suffered a complete winterkill this past winter. Among the fish killed were northern pike, some estimated to weight six pounds or more, that has washed into the pond during the 2011 flood. The pike grew quickly by gorging themselves on smaller fish stocked into the pond.
"It was kind of a blessing, a good thing," said Gullickson of the winterkill. "Now we can start out from zero. We have a revamped air system and have already stocked trout, perch and bluegills."
The State Fair Pond is open to catch-and-release fishing throughout the summer.