Panel recommends funding extension

Leader Reporter

The Shawano County Board's Agriculture and Extension Education Committee has recommended a six-month extension be granted for funding promised by the county for the proposed arena at the Shawano County Fairgrounds.

Representatives from the Shawano Hockey Association and the Shawano County Horse 4-H Key Committee are involved in efforts to raise an additional $500,000 for the building, which will be called the Shawano County Expo Center. They requested the extension.

County supervisors last year agreed to commit $200,000 to the project. The Shawano City Council, which, committed $100,000, also approved a similar extension request.

Officials from the two groups said they wanted the extension so they would have enough time to complete construction plans and secure additional private funding.

Committee member and district 16 supervisor Marlin Noffke expressed concern that the private groups might still come back to the county board for additional money.

Rod Christensen, the chairman of the 4-H Horse Project Key Committee said they would not come back to ask for more money.

"We are going to come up with the rest of the funds ourselves through joint fund raising efforts," said Christensen. "We will still need to raise the additional $500,000, but we will do that ourselves."

Wednesday night the Shawano Area Ag Society, which manages the county fairgrounds, gave its approval to a new plan proposed for the facility by the hockey and horse groups. That new plan calls for the construction of a brand new facility.

An earlier plan had called for the purchase of the Tri-County Ice Facility from the Fox Valley area and moving it to the Shawano County Fairgrounds. But after several meetings and much discussion the two groups realized that facility could not be used in the way in which they had hoped.

The Expo Center will be a 125 by 250 foot enclosed structure with concession and bathroom facilities inside. It will also be heated, have insulation and air conditioning.

At Wednesday's regularly scheduled meeting of the county board, supervisors are expected to vote on the committee's recommendation to grant the extension. They will also hear a presentation on the changes in the project.

The groups say a unique system for providing an ice surface will be used in the building that will allow use for ice activities and activities for horse shows and other events.

"A hard dirt surface will be placed in the building with a couple inches of sand on top of that," said Bruce Reynolds of the hockey association. "Then a large portable mat will be rolled out over that surface. Inside the mat will be freezing coils that will be filled with fluid that will be frozen. Then a few inches or so of water will be spread over the mat and then frozen to allow skating."

According to Reynolds at the end of the ice season the mats can be rolled up with the fluid being drained from inside. They can then be stored with plywood covering them for protection. Then the remaining dirt surface can be used for other activities such as horse shows and related events.

Christensen explained to that the new Expo center will be built on the present site of the horse riding arena. Then outside the building portable corral panels will be put into place for a new riding arena. The group then will have space inside the new building and a new riding arena that can be taken down when that area is needed for parking or other uses.

The groups hope to break ground on the expo center by June 1 and be able to use the facility around Nov. 1.

In December it appeared that the idea of a joint use facility for ice and horse activities in Shawano County might have been dead. Members of the 4-H Horse Project Key Committee were ready to move forward on plans to construct their own building. But the groups got together and through a series of meetings and discussions were able to reach the new agreement.

Shawano Mayor Russ Schmidt, was not at either of the meetings, but knows about the changes in the plan for the facility, said he was happy the hockey and horse groups were able to reach an agreement on how build and operate the facility.

"It will be functional to both groups and that's what's important," Schmidt said. "It will also be something that can be expanded upon and it will be on county property."

The new outdoor riding arena will be built first, according to Christensen.

"We'll need to have the new riding arena built before the new expo center is built," said Christensen. "That will allow events to be held while construction of the actual Expo Center is under way."

Christensen said the new riding arena will be 125 feet by 250 feet, slightly smaller than the present facility.

All of the parties who agreed to the original management agreement for the facility will have to make some changes in that agreement due to alterations in the building plans from what was originally proposed. Committee members felt making the changes would not be difficult or too time consuming.

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By Joe Vandel
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