A site worth considering

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More than two years after the Costco deal that put the Carson City fairgrounds in the spotlight -- and the crosshairs of development -- city officials have come up with a possible relocation site that actually bears serious consideration.

The site on Bureau of Land Management land between Deer Run Road and the Ambrose Nature Area, east of the Carson River, had been examined before, but it was thought the cost of extending sewer and water service would be much too high.

Now, plans for water wells in the Pi-on Hills area within a couple of years could make the site feasible. There would need to be a sewage-treatment system, and the whole thing would cost somewhere in the neighborhood of $6 million or more.

The Deer Run location appears to be the second-best option, after Stewart School, which remains unavailable because of the state's plans for it.

Carson City should start planning for Deer Run as a new fairgrounds, in order to give officials plenty of time to work out problems and take into consideration the effects on residents along the road.

Does that mean we think the existing fairgrounds should be sold to developers? No. Let's not put the cart before the horse.

That's exactly what city officials were trying to do when they opened discussions with Wal-Mart more than a year ago. As we have seen, timing is everything.

Today, Wal-Mart already has built walls for its new store south of the Douglas County line, while city officials are saying the Deer Run site could be ready for a fairgrounds in a couple of years. In other words, we're a long way from being ready to start building a fairgrounds.

Aside from the practical problems of where to hold events in the interim, the biggest question becomes how to fund a new fairgrounds without selling the land underneath the existing one. The site next to Clear Creek could bring in enough to put $4 million in the city's pocket toward a new fairground -- a significant head-start.

On the other hand, the city already has a head-start: about $2 million from the sale to Costco tentatively earmarked for Fuji Park and the fairgrounds.

If development of a new fairgrounds is in the city's long-term plans, it should be a decision of the Parks Commission whether the Deer Run site is the right place. If it's a high priority, then the city can apply Quality of Life funds toward a new fairgrounds.

Part of the $2 million in Costco money can go toward improving Fuji Park -- which city supervisors have vowed to maintain -- and helping the existing fairgrounds limp along for a few more years until a new one is ready.

City officials don't need to work at cross-purposes by selling park land at the same time they are trying to purchase open space and improve Carson's parks. With some patience and planning, Carson City can keep its parks and expand them, too.


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