An enclosed “agriplex” could be just the thing to open up numerous revenue-generating opportunities for the district—and that’s exactly what the Rainy River Valley Agricultural Society’s fair board wants to build.
Gary Beck, who sits an the agriplex sub-committee with fair board president Ken McKinnon, Keith Caul, and Allan Teeple, said the proposed facility would measure at least 100’ x 200’.
It would feature a clay-based show ring floor in the centre and movable stalls on either side of the building, complete with concession stands and plumbing facilities all under one roof.
Although still at the planning stage, Beck said the commitment already is there by the fair board to build a top-notch, all-steel, insulated facility.
“We believe Fort Frances [and the district] is in a very good place to have a facility where you could hold a number of horse shows, cattle shows, and sheep, too, and bring more income into the district,” he added.
The idea behind the agriplex dates back several years ago when the draft horse barn at the fairgrounds burned down. Initially, the fair board wanted to replace it with another barn, Beck said.
“But when you went to the fairgrounds, there was always a problem with rain, or sleet in early May,” he noted, which prompted the board to do a feasibility study on building an enclosed facility.
“Last Monday, we sat down with Geoff Gillon [of the Rainy River Future Development Corp.] and we are at stage one of making a proposal to the Northern Ontario Heritage Funding Corp.,” he remarked.
As it stands right now, the agriplex is proposed to go up in two stages, with the main centre of the building erected first, followed by two additional wings to provide extra room for stalls.
The entire project likely will cost more than $800,000. Beck said the fair board already has $75,000 saved up for the project, and figures another $100,000 needs to be raised from the community.
But he believed that $100,000 easily could be made up from horse shows alone.
“In Valley City, N.D., they hold a horse show one or two times a month. They’re bringing in an excess of 100 head of horse to their shows,” Beck said, adding the Valley City facility isn’t even enclosed.
And since the Emo fairground already is on a horse association “circuit,” it would be easy to attract the clientele once the facility is up, he argued.
“Just what an individual would spend in food and gas could be a big boost for the area,” he said.
An enclosed facility also would be a bonus during the fall fair, Beck said, giving the 4-H cattle shows and auction an indoor facility in case of rain, not to mention the lumberjack competition (which has fallen prey to the elements more than once).
Right now, the fair board is looking for potential partners and interested parties in the “agriplex” idea—both financially and administratively.
Beck also is hoping to hear from the other agricultural groups, such as the Ontario Federation of Agriculture and the district 4-H association.
“We’re looking for people who might have some experience in fundraising, like for the auditorium,” he noted. “We’re looking for assistance on it.”