|Ohio Governor Mike DeWine joined members of the Ohio Expositions Commission to review the master plan framework that will serve as a launching point to modernize and enhance the Ohio Expo Center and Ohio State Fair for the future.The framework was created as part of the work of the Expo 2050 Task Force. Governor DeWine created the task force in 2019 to develop a strategic vision for the 360-acre Ohio Expo Center property, which is home to the Ohio State Fair and hosts many other events throughout the year.
“The renderings you’re seeing today represent the initial vision for the future of the Ohio Expo Center and Ohio State Fair, which will remain here in the heart of Columbus, its home since 1886,” said Governor DeWine. “The Ohio State Fair is something to be proud of, and we want to make the guest experience one that is comparable to — if not better than — other best-in-class attractions.”
The strategic vision, which was developed by the Expo 2050 Task Force’s third-party master planning consultant Wellogy, includes a new overall organization of the Ohio Expo Center property, including the renovation, modernization, or demolition of several buildings; the addition of new exhibition facilities, parking garages, and other areas to enhance the guest experience; and improved access between the Ohio Expo Center and the nearby Ohio History Connection. The recommendations also include the development of a new town square and entertainment pavilion.
“The Ohio Expo Center and Ohio State Fair mean so much to our city, our state, and the agricultural community,” said Virgil Strickler, Ohio Expo Center & State Fair General Manager. “Building on our facility’s unique history here in Columbus with improvements that will accommodate all Ohioans will lead us, our event holders, and everyone who knows and loves the Ohio State Fair, toward a bright future.”
The improvements will benefit the Ohio State Fair as well as many events held at the site throughout the year, such as the All American Quarter Horse Congress, Goodguys Car Show, Ohio Beef Expo, trade shows, consumer shows, and more.
“This vision, which includes new buildings, significant improvements to the existing structures, and new ideas about the use of the overall space and crowd flow, will create major upgrades to the fairgoer experience, whether they are there to demonstrate their 4-H and FFA projects, celebrate agriculture, indulge in fair food, or enjoy top-notch entertainment,” said Adam Sharp, Ohio Farm Bureau Executive Vice President. “We look forward to learning more about the plan and seeing more details. We appreciate Governor DeWine’s dedication to the Expo Center and Ohio State Fair through this process.”
The proposed enhancements are recommended to occur strategically over a period of several years and do not yet have a specific timeline or estimated cost. The master plan framework will be used by the Ohio Expositions Commission as a guide for future development over the long-term as funding can be secured.
“As the largest single-breed horse show in the world and Ohio’s largest single convention event, we applaud the bold leadership of Governor Mike DeWine, the Expo 2050 Task Force and the Ohio Expo Commission,” said Scott Myers, chief executive officer of the Quarter Horse Congress. “They have crafted a thoughtful, strategic, and transformational plan that will create a world-class venue at the Ohio Expo Center and Ohio State Fairgrounds.”
Wellogy was assisted by partners Populous, CSL International, EDGE Landscape Architecture, Korda Engineering, Bennett Engineering, and Concord Addis. Steps that went into the development of the proposal included:
• Benchmarking – conducted research on markets, facilities, and fairs across the country, including structure, budget, size, parking availability, and more.
• Facility Assessment – assessed each building, thoroughly reviewing the current structures, utilities, and infrastructure, to identify any necessary renovations, and analyzed each building’s suitability for current and future events.
• Site Utilization – reviewed existing and prospective event needs, along with the current frequency that many buildings are in use for set-up, tear-down, or event days.
• Stakeholder Research – interviewed and surveyed more than 90 stakeholders from approximately 40 different organizations, including event holders, agency partners, agricultural commodity groups, youth organizations, Expo 2050 Task Force members, legislative and community partners, Ohio Expositions Commission members and staff, vendors, sponsors, staff, The Ohio State University, Haslam Sports Group and Columbus Crew SC, the Ohio History Connection, the city of Columbus, and safety and security partners.
The 2023 Ohio State Fair will run July 26 – Aug. 6. For more information about the Ohio State Fair, visit ohiostatefair.com.
By Mark Badertscher, Randall Reeder, Adapted from C.O.R.N 2024-04 The Conservation Tillage & Technology Conference …