La Plata County Commissioners have talked about moving the County Fairgrounds from its current location since the early 1990s, including consideration of Ewing Mesa off of Highway 3.
In a Back to the Future move, the current commissioners are accepting bids for a contractor to do a Ewing Mesa Multi-Event Center master plan. A required pre-bid conference is scheduled for today at the fairgrounds, including trip to Ewing Mesa. The bid deadline is Jan. 16.
Mercury Payments (now Vantiv) founder Marc Katz bought the Ewing Mesa land a few years ago with intent to offer it for community use.
Assistant County Manager Joanne Spina told the Times this week that Katz approached the county and the city of Durango about a land donation that he was willing to make as a possible site for a multi-event center.
She clarified that he hasn't made any donation yet. "That's predicated on the master plan to identify a preferred location of around 200 acres" out of around 800 acres that will be studied.
Part of the purpose of the master plan is to determine the preferred location. That's the land that would be donated.
The 800 acre study area is the flat land at the top of Ewing Mesa, Spina said. It has a spectacular view of the La Platas. Katz's total property is around 1,800 acres, Spina said.
She noted that a county fairgrounds task force and then an events center task force has been working for years on opportunities to move the fairgrounds from its space-constrained location in Durango.
According to Times archives, the task force was created in June 2005. They talked about needing 150 acres. They visited other area fairgrounds and a facility in San Angelo, Tex.
But in May 2007, the task force put its work on hold after the Southern Ute Indian Tribe announced plans to rebuild the Sky Ute Events Center with a multi-use enclosed arena, four new barns and a new RV park. Four old barns and the old RV park would be demolished, and the old arena, north barn, and grandstand building would be renovated.
State school land north of Three Springs also was considered for the county facility at one point.
Several years ago, the county was working with the BLM concerning ridge-top land south of Durango, adjacent to a county gravel pit and the C&J gravel pit. That discussion was under provisions of the federal Recreation and Public Purposes Act. "We were working through that to see if it would be suitable," Spina said.
But then Katz came forward with Ewing Mesa, Spina said. The county proposes to pay for the master pan with state Conservation Trust money that can only be used for certain things, including recreation-type facilities or planning for future facilities.
The master plan process will include stakeholder meetings and community forums to identify needs and what should be included in the plan, Spina said. "Once we have a master plan, we can seek other funding. It's a very long-term view of the project. It will take many years. This is the first step."
The study will consider things like water, sewer, and access, and other uses that could go on Ewing Mesa, Spina said. It will include rough cost estimates.
"We feel there's tremendous economic development potential with this," she said, meaning the multi-event center. "The current fairgrounds is limited. There are events that we turn away that would be a boost to the economy."
Asked about possibly selling the current fairgrounds at some point, Spina said, "We haven't even contemplated that. We're years away from that."