Market analysis identifies growth opportunities for Eagle County Fairgrounds

Community uses and events are considered high growth, while concerts and sporting events fall into low-growth tier

The new master plan for the Eagle County Fairgrounds will help identify how modification of current structures, such as the Eagle River Center shown here, and new developments can maximize the use of the site.
Courtesy photo

Eagle County is steadily making progress toward developing a master plan for the Eagle County Fairgrounds. On Tuesday, Crossroads Consulting presented the board of county commissioners with a market analysis that identifies key areas of opportunity for the property.

The firm identified expansion of the Fair & Rodeo and community events like wedding parties, quinceaneras, trade shows and expos, meetings and fundraisers as high-growth potential opportunities. While the Eagle County Fair & Rodeo draws spectators from farther distances, most of the highest growth opportunities cater to the needs of the local population rather than trying to draw outside traffic.

Much of the justification for this is due to the lack of hotel and lodging opportunities in the area, which makes drawing large visiting crowds untenable.

This point is further emphasized by the fact that concerts, entertainment acts and non-local sporting events were all categorized as the lowest growth opportunities for the space. This determination is in contrast to community desires for the fairgrounds, as identified by a public input survey that was live online from June 8-22 this year. 

The survey received 160 responses, 95% from residents of Eagle. When asked what activities they would like to see more of at the fairgrounds, “concerts and entertainment” was the top response, followed closely by outdoor festivals.

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Though public interest is in support of this category, the analysis found that market conditions in the area do not indicate high financial or usage returns for these activities, as Crossroads Consulting president Susan Sieger explained to the board.

“That is really a byproduct of a couple things: one, your market population size, but more importantly, the competition is fierce for that type of activity,” Sieger said. “Not to say you can’t get some, but we don’t want to prioritize recommendations around those event types.”

Rodeo, bull riding, livestock and horse shows were all categorized as moderate growth opportunities.

In order to support the high growth opportunities, Crossroads Consulting recommended the development of a column-free, climate-controlled facility of approximately 40,000 square feet. The ideal building would include 4-6 meeting rooms, approximately 900 square feet apiece, that can be combined to form larger spaces when necessary. This would enable the building to be a multi-purpose space, meeting all of the diverse community events and usage needs identified in the market analysis.

This building could be developed as an expansion of an existing facility, or as a new development. Currently the largest building on site is the Eagle River Center, at around 50,000 square feet, which would require a number of modifications in order to become a year-round facility.

Another large opportunity for growth is the development of tent camping and RV sites. Crossroads Consulting recommended expanding RV spaces in the fairgrounds to a minimum of 100 full-service hookups for RVs, plus additional areas set up for tent camping. This area would ideally include a dump station, restroom and shower facility and access to Wi-Fi, and have options for expansion in the future.

“There’s really not a lot of competition for that, you have a beautiful setting for that, so we really see that as a market-driven programmatic requirement,” Sieger said.

The Eagle County Fair & Rodeo continues to drive the highest traffic to the fairgrounds each year, often selling out with an average attendance around 16,100 from 2018 through 2021. The analysis suggests that an addition of at least 600 seats would help capitalize on the popularity of the event and meet growing interest in attendance.

An increase of dedicated fairgrounds staff was also recommended to help facilitate the expansion of property uses.

These are only preliminary recommendations and do not reflect any final decisions about the direction of the fairgrounds, though they do clarify areas of priority that will make the most sense for the county to invest in. The master planning team — which consists of Crossroads Consulting, Populous architecture and design and the county’s facilities staff — will meet with stakeholders on Sept. 8 to present the data, and will host additional public engagement opportunities before making concrete recommendations.

The new master plan is scheduled to be completed by the end of 2022.

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