By KAREN KASLER
Gov. Mike DeWine has appointed a task force to consider the future of the Ohio State Fairgrounds, just three miles away from downtown Columbus. The annual state fair brings together agriculture, rides and fried food on July 24, but that’s only one of the things at stake.
DeWine says the 19-member Expo 2050 commission must consider that events are held on the fairgrounds year-round.
And the fairgrounds are adjacent to the Columbus Crew major league soccer stadium, Mapfre Stadium. The Crew worked out a $140 million deal to avoid moving to Austin, Texas. On July 1, Columbus City Council okayed spending $50 million for a new stadium in downtown Columbus and for the redevelopment of Mapfre Stadium into a practice facility and sports park. The next day, the Franklin County commissioners approved a total of $75 million over 30 years toward that deal. The deal also involves $20 million from the state of Ohio and $25 million from a bond issue.
The Crew wants some fairgrounds land to redevelop Mapfre Stadium. DeWine says the task force needs to deal with that request soon, but he’s not suggesting anything – including whether the fairgrounds should relocate out of the city.
“We’re not limiting them at all. In fact, we’re telling them to take a kind of big, holistic approach to where we need to go in the future,” DeWine said.
DeWine also noted the state highway patrol has a training facility on the fairgrounds, and the Ohio History Connection museum and its Ohio Village are nearby.
Former Columbus Dispatch publisher and former Rep. Mike Curtin (D-Columbus) and Ohio Developmental Services Agency Director and former Findlay mayor Lydia Mihalik are the co-chairs of the Expo 2050 task force. Other members include:
Alissa Belna-Muhlenkamp, Junior Fair Board Coordinator, Ohio State Fair
Sen. Hearcel F. Craig (D-Columbus)
Ohio Expositions Commission Chair Andy Doehrel, Ohio Chamber of Commerce President
Sandy Doyle-Ahern, President, EMH&T
Col. Richard Fambro, Superintendent, Ohio State Highway Patrol
Columbus City Council President Shannon Hardin
Elizabeth Harsh, Executive Director, Ohio Cattlemen’s Association
Ohio History Connection Executive Director and CEO Burt Logan
Robert Lorimer, President, The Arnold Sports Festival
Ohio Department of Natural Resources Director Mary Mertz
Curt Moody, CEO, Moody Nolan
Keith Myers, Vice President of Planning, Architecture, and Real Estate, Ohio State University
Dr. Scott Myers, CEO, All American Quarter Horse Congress
Ohio Department of Agriculture Director Dorothy Pelanda
Sen. Bob Peterson (R-Washington Court House)
Rep. John Rogers (D-Mentor-on-the-Lake)
Virgil Strickler, General Manager, Ohio Exposition Center & State Fair
Rep. Paul Zeltwanger (R-Mason)