The Hamilton County 4-H Fairgrounds will undergo a major renovation as part of a $65 million master plan that officials say could bring more visitors and more than double the amount of year-round event space when completed.
The project, which will be done in three phases, will result in the fairgrounds being rebranded as The Silos at 37 Hamilton County: 4-H Fairgrounds. The initial phase that begins this fall carries a price tag of $26.5 million and will include improvements to the existing exhibition center, drainage, llama barn and grounds, in addition to a Bicentennial Pavilion marking Hamilton County’s 200th anniversary.
The project will mark the first time in more than 25 years since any major upgrades have taken place on the 40-acre site.
“The fairgrounds are a gathering place,” Purdue Extension Hamilton County Director Susan Peterson said. “They have connected family and friends for generations. They bring people, too, and are a showpiece for our county. The time is right to invest in the future of this facility.”
The Hamilton County Council has committed $15 million toward the project, while the Hamilton County Extension Board plans to launch a capital campaign to assist with funding. A groundbreaking was held for the initial phase July 20 at the Centennial Pavilion during the first day of the Hamilton County 4-H Fair, where many youths involved in 4-H were showing animals throughout the five-day fair.
“We’re calling it the ‘Fairgrounds for the Future,’” Hamilton County Extension Board President Jane Sipe said. “This plan not only enhances our ability to provide more programs, but will also serve as an economic driver, enabling us to host a wider variety of programming throughout the year.”
Sipe said phase 1A will include improvements to the llama barn and an expansion of the maintenance garage, while another phase known as 1B will focus on building a new show arena and expanding the Hamilton County 4-H exhibition center. However, phase 1B will be contingent on funding, according to Sipe, who wants to raise $3 million to $4 million through the capital campaign but stressed that additional funding would be needed for future phases.
The Bicentennial Pavilion, which is scheduled to open late next year, will replace the O.V. Winks and Annex buildings that will be lost to the expansion of Pleasant Street. The second and third phases of the project are contingent on funding and would include the construction of two silos at the main entrance, officials said.
In addition, the project would include the demolition of seven outdoor buildings to be replaced by eight air-conditioned buildings that could be used year-round, officials said.
“If completed, this plan could more than double the fairgrounds’ year-round rental space and drive additional visitors to our area,” Hamilton County Tourism CEO Brenda Myers said. “The new space will help attract small- and medium-sized events like weddings, consumer shows and conferences that may not fit at larger venues like the Indiana State Fairgrounds.”
Hamilton County Commissioner Christine Altman also said the renovation and expansion at the fairgrounds is just one component of several that the public can expect to see in the future.
“This is a beginning,” Altman said. “We’re going to have community support. I know we can make this vision come true.”
Hamilton County Commissioner Mark Heirbrandt also described the fairgrounds as “a very special place in our community” for many people within Hamilton County. Heirbrandt said he has enjoyed hearing stories of people who have visited the fairgrounds and how it has enriched their lives.
Heirbrandt also reflected on the overall fairgrounds, which are used for various other functions throughout the year outside of the annual fair.
“It’s a community place for people to gather,” he said.
Hamilton County Councilor Sue Maki, who serves as a liaison to the county extension board, said officials plan to work with community and philanthropic partners on phases two and three moving forward.
“We’re going to work to make sure it continues to be a valuable part of our community,” Maki said.
How to help
For individuals and businesses interested in donating to the capital campaign, checks can be made out to Friends of Hamilton County and mailed to the Hamilton County Purdue Extension Office, 2003 Pleasant St., Noblesville. Information will also be available on the extension website by visiting extension.purdue.edu/county/hamilton.index.html. For questions, call Jane Sipe, Hamilton County extension board president, at 317-431-1380.