August 12, 2016
Summary: Commissioners of Allegany County, Maryland seemed inclined to agree with a Convergence Design study suggesting that the Fairgo racing oval, long a fixture at the Fairgrounds, had outlived its usefulness.
CUMBERLAND — Officials agree, it might be time to remove the Fairgo Half Mile from the Allegany County Fairgrounds.
“I think the race track being gone is something that is going to happen,” said Allegany County Commission President Jake Shade. “It’s just not economically feasible for anyone to race out there anymore.”
Removing the the raceway was recommended by Convergence Design, the Missouri-based consulting firm hired by the county to create a comprehensive plan for the fairgrounds.
Brian Firkins, consultant for the firm, presented a draft plan to officials on Thursday at the county work session.
“We’re suggesting that you eliminate the racing oval, except for the straightaway in front of the grandstand, which is used,” said Firkins.
Firkins believes the area could be used for other functions, including an expanded music meadow at DelFest.
For the fairgrounds to move forward, the raceway should go, according to Shade.
“It’s not economically feasible,” said Shade. “We’ve tried — we’ve bent over backwards, and it’s not going to happen ... so if we want the fairgrounds to move forward and use it for the stuff we want to have an impact, it has to happen.”
Convergence Design presented several other recommendations, including an upgrade to the Multi-Purpose Building.
Seen as the fairgrounds biggest asset, the facility is still seen as out dated, the firm said. Some upgrades would be needed in the kitchen, including better refrigeration and larger ice-making machines. The facility is also considered too small, according to many users.
Some drawbacks to the fairgrounds’ development include the site’s position on a 100-year flood plain as well as access challenges.
Being on the flood plain would affect much of the site’s development. Current structures are grandfathered in, but any new construction would need approval from the Maryland Department of the Environment.
In addition, the venue has only one entrance, which is positioned over a railroad track. With entry dependent on train traffic, this slows vehicle traffic even more, causing severe backups.
Consultants also point to the awkward turn of U.S. Route 220 into the fairgrounds, causing additional traffic to back up at the site.
Other challenges to development include lack of RV hook-ups and unorganized parking.
“There’s limited full RV hook-ups for big users,” said Firkins. “There’s limited water and power. There’s plenty to the site, it’s just not correctly distributed.”
“Parking is unorganized, effecting efficiency during events,” said Firkins. “Also, a lot of the parking is on turf, which is compromised by the elements.”
The draft plan for the fairgrounds will be available on the Allegany County Government website for public comment, with details including estimated costs.
“For all the trashing people give strategic plans, they serve a purpose,” said Shade. “And this one is great.”