More state funding is being sought to redevelop a major tourist attraction in Western Massachusetts. Officials made their pitch Tuesday to Governor Deval Patrick for more help for the Three County Fairgrounds in Northampton. WAMC’s Pioneer Valley Bureau Chief Paul Tuthill reports.
Governor Patrick said he was impressed by the progress made so far on what is planned as a $50 million dollar project to develop a facility capable of hosting events year round. But he stopped short of a firm commitment of more state money.
The state gave $4 million to the Three County Fair Association in 2010 to build three new horse barns, which were finished last summer. Officials say the new buildings have already boosted business at the fairgrounds by 25 percent.
The next phase of the redevelopment plan calls for building an 80,000 square foot exhibition hall. But officials say before it can be constructed serious drainage issues on the property and the surrounding residential neighborhood must be addressed. Local officials hope the state will pay for the infrastructure work.
State Senator Stanley Rosenberg of Amherst who instrumental in securing state funding to build the horse barns said public money for the infrastructure project could be forthcoming, if private financing is lined up for the rest of the ambitious project.
Ann Burke, vice president of the Economic Development Council of Western Massachusetts, said the Three County Fairgrounds project highlights the importance of tourism to regional economic development strategy.
The redevelopment plan for the fairgrounds said that when completed the facility will be able to triple the number of events held annually by operating year round and holding multiple events at a time. The additional agriculture exhibits, equestrian competitions, conventions, shows and exhibits envisioned are projected to put $35 million into the local economy. That is more than double what the fairgrounds current business impact according to Suzanne Beck, executive director of the Northampton Chamber of Commerce.
Major events that are held now at the Three County Fairgrounds include the Morgan Horse Show, the Three County Fair over the Labor Day weekend, and the twice-a-year Paradise City Arts Festival.