Let the concept design phase for Eagle River Center begin.
On Tuesday, Eagle County commissioners approved a $29,000 contract for Populous Inc. to draft a concept design for expanding the county fairgrounds and the center.
The work will start quickly. People are invited to meet the consultants at ERC and give input during 30 minute work sessions between 1 and 5:30 p.m. today, Oct. 18.
Populous is based in Kansas City, Mo., and has an office in Denver. The firm designed the equestrian center for the London Olympics and has currently other projects around Colorado as well. Populous' bid was the lowest of seven, four of which were more than $50,000.
In its current condition, the Eagle River Center at the fairgrounds only generates income to cover one-third of its operating costs. The commissioners and others would like to change that scenario and make the facility a regional amenity that could attract equine events from around the nation. But like many things in life, before the county can make money it needs to spend money at the center - about $3 million.
Also complicating plans at the fairgrounds is a gravel pit and recreation fields that have to be moved some time in next three to five years. After the current pit next to the fields expires, that property will be reclaimed by the county and the land currently under the ball fields will be mined.
The fairgrounds project is currently sidelined with a question mark in the county's 2013 budget.
Commissioner Peter Runyon said Tuesday that the concept design will help the county get a more specific idea what kind of investment and timeline will be needed to make the fairgrounds profitable.
"This will help us do a cost-benefit analysis," Runyon said.
The concept-design process is scheduled to take two or three months. There will be two scheduled workshops, starting Thursday, and then a final presentation, of which the public will be notified.