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Fair's lease with city of Perham expires this year

It's time for the East Otter Tail Fair Board to renew its lease with the city.

The current five-year lease was intended to be short-term, while the fair task force implemented long range land acquisition, expansion and maintenance plans. The lease expires Dec. 31, 2008.

But five years later, the board and the city are still handcuffed as far as firm plans on buying or selling land, building an arena and repairing existing buildings.

Actually, the state of limbo has existed for a quarter-century.

"We signed the 20-year lease (about 1983), with the idea that we'll figure something out by then," said fair board member Dr. Bill Rose at the August 18 task force meeting. "Then we signed the five- year lease, so we would have time to figure something out. Here we are, considering another 20 year lease."

The issues are varied, but a few of the key topics and options are:

----Selling the land on County 78, where the barns are in extremely poor shape. The land may generate enough revenue as commercial property for the fair board to invest elsewhere on the grounds.

----Build a multi-use arena, which would enable the fair to host larger horse shows and other events. Income generated from such a facility could help make the fair self-sustaining.

----The arena opens up the possibility for other tenants, such as hockey-ice skating, or potentially wrestling or gymnastics. This could take some pressure off the demand for school and Perham Area Community Center facilities, noted PACC?and school board member Jim Rieber.

----Purchasing additional land from a neighboring property owner, which could be as much as 17 acres, to expand the fair to the east.

----More land could enable the board to reconfigure the site to bring in larger shows or events, with bigger gate revenue, said Rick Breitenfeldt, fair board member.