Federal grant secured for new Ingham County Fairgrounds grandstand
by Shuyler Clark
In 2016, the Ingham County Fairgrounds, located in Mason, Michigan, demolished its 80-year-old grandstand following concerns that the structure was unsafe. Now, fairgoers can rejoice as a new grandstand will soon take its place.
At a press conference on Jan. 18, 2023, U.S. Congresswoman Elissa Slotkin (MI 7th District) announced that $2.5 million dollars in federal funding has been secured for the Fairgrounds structure. The money is part of $24.5 million dollars awarded for fifteen projects across Ingham, Livingston, and Oakland counties for 2023.
In recent years, U.S. state representatives have had an annual opportunity to submit 15 projects in their districts to receive federal funding. This program has assisted in funding 12 projects in Ingham County alone between 2022 and 2023, resulting in $34 million dollars in grant money for the county. Cities submit applications for proposals considered most beneficial for the area; winners are determined based on public support and the level of impact the proposal will have on the community if selected.
Among the 90 projects submitted this year, the new grandstand received some of the greatest public support. While it was initially proposed last year, the project was rejected in favor of the city of Mason’s wastewater treatment. Now that the grandstand has been approved, the county is set to receive the money in the next six to eight months, with a construction start date yet to be announced.
The original grandstand was a source of many happy memories for fairgoers since its construction in 1936. Following its demolition, members of the community have advocated tirelessly for a new facility, including organizing fundraising efforts. Local leaders, including Ingham County Fairgrounds Events Director Lindsey McKeever and members of the Ingham County Board of Commissioners, have helped to lead these endeavors.
“The construction of a new grandstand will truly unlock the potential of the fairgrounds and all we have to offer to our residents of Ingham County and our surrounding areas,” McKeever says. With the new funding, “the fairgrounds will regain its heartbeat and with it the opportunity to continue to provide a space for families to make lifelong family memories.”
Mason’s mayor pro tempore, Leon Clark, says, “The impact of the new grandstand will be far-reaching; the venue will draw visitors from the immediate area, from around the state, and possibly other states… For the locals, the new grandstand will help enhance something that we and local government think is just as important as the economics, and work very hard at, and that is the sense of placemaking [in the community].”
Slotkin has heard requests for the project since becoming a Representative. Given her childhood living on a farm and visiting the Oakland County Fair annually, she was aware of and sympathetic to the demand for a new Inham County grandstand. And she admits that she hopes to participate in a demolition derby at the fairgrounds.
Current plans for the grandstand total an estimated $2.2 million dollars, not including restrooms, electricity, and other amenities. There is no requirement for the community to match the funds, but additional fundraising will likely be required to add these facilities.
The various other projects approved for District 7 will strengthen public services in the area, including public trails, fire and police departments, and other infrastructure developments, according to Slotkin’s office.
In addition to the new grandstand, funding has also been secured for a Stockbridge school-based health center to be used by the village and surrounding townships. Watch SCN for future news as more details become available about the new health center.