Even as the multimillion-dollar structure is being built, Washington County commissioners have named a new event and conference center and renamed the Hillsboro site it sits on.
The $52 million project will be named Wingspan, in recognition of its design and its location next to Hillsboro Airport.
The Washington County Fair Complex will be renamed Westside Commons, in recognition of its transition to all-year uses, though it will retain the subtitle "Home of the annual Washington County Fair."
Board Chairwoman Kathryn Harrington said the county received 4,300 public comments, most in favor of a revised master plan that will expand facilities in three stages, excluding the event center.
"It was really a community-constructed master plan," she said. "Now that we have a master plan … we will be able to move forward with a clear path for that tremendous publicly owned asset we have in our community — and the funding to make this master plan a reality."
The price tag is estimated at between $32 million and $40 million, excluding the event center that is already funded.
The county board approved the changes July 16 after a recommendation from the Fairgrounds Advisory Committee, which also guided the update of the 2008 master plan for the site.
"We needed to challenge them on their assumptions and to look for the best solution to provide a facility that will be multi-use, while staying true to the values" of the fair, said Daniel Smith Pierson, the advisory committee chairman.
Although the board heard no dissenting testimony, county officials have had to do a balancing act.
On one hand are longtime fairgrounds users, such as agricultural and youth groups, which are concerned their activities will have lesser priority in a multiple-use venue.
On the other hand are Washington County and others with similar facilities, which must make use of them all year if they are to be self-supporting, without operating subsidies that divert money from other county services.
"I want to acknowledge that we hear you and we will support you in any way we can," Commissioner Jerry Willey said to representatives of 4-H in the audience.
Willey, a former mayor of Hillsboro, made a contribution to the annual Washington County 4-H Horse Fair. That event was held July 8-12 at the Yamhill County Fairgrounds in McMinnville because of construction at the Hillsboro site.
Jan Harer, one of the 4-H show's superintendents, praised Yamhill County and sponsor Coastal Farm and Ranch. "However, it just wasn't home," she said.
Harer said she hopes that an arena used for horse activities will be covered sooner than called for in the updated master plan.
The event center, ground for which was broken last fall, is scheduled for completion in 2020. The $52 million project is funded by the county's share of lodging taxes and state Gain Share payments — which also will repay bonds issued for it and other capital projects — plus $8 million from Hillsboro city lodging taxes and $1 million from the Washington County Visitors Association.
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