A group of more than a dozen community members representing groups that use Carson City Fairgrounds/Fuji Park will get the chance to say how they believe the area should be revamped.
They met on Wednesday evening with the city and the developer of a proposed Western-themed casino that will occupy the 3.1-acre site Bodine's restaurant is vacating next month.
Kevin Coleman of Net Development Co. and K&S Properties would like to send any overflow casino parking to the fairgrounds/Fuji Park. Coleman has pledged up to $1 million for the additional parking spaces and to improve the fairgrounds.
He apologized to the residents because he had spent the past year quietly making plans with the city, angering people who use the fairgrounds. He and city staff started off with the idea to spruce up a section of the land near the highway, but eventually ended up creating plans for the entire property.
Coleman would have preferred to work out in the open much sooner, but the nature of the deal required plans to be made behind closed doors up until now, he also said.
He doesn't need to create more parking for the city to OK the casino plan, but he believes it would be a good thing to have. The most important thing to him is ensuring that his casino has a functional, good-looking facility next to it. This will benefit everyone, not just the business, Coleman emphasized.
"I have no desire to have your park or ruin your parks. Like any capitalist, I want people to come to eat from the park," he told the residents. "I'd like to see the park at the level it should have been at years ago."
Coleman was responsible for the Minden Village development and comes to the area often. The fairgrounds and the surrounding area are "an eyesore," said he and Roger Moellendoerf, director of the city Parks and Recreation Department.
Both also said that changes need to be made at the fairgrounds before the city is sued if an accident causes someone to be badly injured or even die. For example, animals often get loose and wander around the grounds, sometimes making their way off the property and into the streets and other areas bordering the fairgrounds.
A group of residents who use the fairgrounds objected to the plan presented during a meeting last month to the Parks and Recreation Commission.
Some of their concerns included where the developer wanted to have customers leave their vehicles and that the arena would have been placed in a less-than-optimal direction for spectators to view the goings on.
The commissioners didn't recommend the plan. This is why residents' opinions are now being sought. Those at Wednesday's gathering included representatives of 4-H, rodeo, canine and equestrian groups based in the area. They offered an array of ideas and expect to have even more as time goes on.
Construction of the 30,000-square-foot casino is expected to begin during the first quarter of 2006 and expected to take up to nine months and $10 million to complete, according to previous reports.
Coleman would like to see the fairgrounds overhauled within the next 18 months.
"We've been screwed so many times. I think Kevin is willing to work with the groups," said Jack Andersen of the Fuji Park Users Coalition. "I think it's doable this time."
The South Carson Street location near Old Clear Creek Road is considered a prime location for two reasons: it is next to the Douglas County line and offers one of the city's last unrestricted gaming licenses.
Coleman and Parks and Recreation Department staff will meet again at 5:30 p.m. on Jan. 4 at the Carson City Senior Citizens Center to discuss ideas with park users.
-- Contact reporter Terri Harber at email@example.com or 881-1215.