The Columbia County Fairgrounds are being prepared for improvements.
Crews recently completed about three months' worth of site preparation on the 60-acre property on Columbia Road owned by the Merchants Association of Columbia County.
"We're just trying to set up a good basis to improve that place," said Bobby Herrington, the Merchants Association president. "Right now, we're trying to set it up and reshape the whole property."
The grading work included dynamiting rock and regrading the main part of the property -- the area bordering Columbia Road where the Columbia County Fall Fair is held.
The improvements are the first step in the long-term plans the association hopes to make a reality in the next few years.
"So as we start doing improvements from here forward, we can do it in a permanent nature," Herrington said. "Eventually, we want to pave a midway. We want to put an arena-type building out there so we can have shows in there and put it to use year-round."
The building, which is in the planning stages, is expected to be about a 60,000-square-foot, multipurpose, open-air arena similar to North Augusta's Hippodrome, with bleachers and half-side walls to provide some weather protection.
"You could have rodeos in it," Herrington said of the possibilities the building could provide. "You could have concerts in it. You could have (a) demolition derby in there with automobiles."
Herrington said the site improvements, which cost more than $300,000, included pushing the dirt entrance road back 150-200 feet, expanding the fairgrounds area and reorganizing the parking lots.
That dirt entry road will eventually become a direct entrance off William Few Parkway, which county officials are planning to extend alongside the property to Chamblin Road. The extension would accommodate additional traffic from Grovetown High School, being built on Chamblin at Baker Place Road, said Ronnie Hutto, a county pre-construction engineer.
The county has taken over construction of the extension, which is part of a larger state Department of Transportation project that will create a route from Furys Ferry Road along Hardy McManus Road and William Few Parkway and cross Washington Road and into Chamblin Road before tying into Interstate 20 at Lewiston Road, Hutto said.
The William Few extension to Chamblin Road, the phase the county is constructing, likely will be complete before the high school opens in the fall of 2009.
"We've already got the surveys and designs under way," Hutto said. "We're hoping to let (the project out for bids) this year or the first of next year."
In the meantime, Herrington said, the merchants association is continuing work on the long-term plans for the fairgrounds property and waiting for the final phase of site preparation to be complete.
"Right now, we are waiting for the grass to come through," Herrington said. "I'm hoping we're going to have some grass by the time the fair gets here."
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