Officials Hope to Burn Mower County Fair Grandstand

Posted at: 10/09/2012 5:44 PM
By: Dan Conradt

(ABC 6 NEWS) -- It's seen too many concerts, rodeos and demolition derbies to count.

But after 80 years, the days are numbered for a legendary Mower County gathering spot.

And while the county board today voted for demolition, but there are still unanswered questions.

"It's not cost-effective to try to salvage and rehabilitate the facility," said Mower County Coordinator Craig Oscarson.

With major structural problems, the county board's decision on the future of the grandstand was pretty clear-cut ... it needs to be taken down. What's not so clear is how to do it.

“We have to hire a consultant to do an environmental assessment of the property," Oscarson explained.

When the county started leaning toward demolishing the grandstand, the idea surfaced of using it for a controlled burn and a training exercise for area fire departments.

"We have to determine number one is there lead paint. also we have to determine if there is asbestos that has to be removed before a burn or a demo," Oscarson said.

“Any time we can get an acquired structure, it's different than trying to simulate," said Austin Fire Chief Mickey Healey.

For Healey, doing on a controlled burn on a structure the size of the grandstand is a rare opportunity.

"This would be actual hands-on with fire and seeing an actual reaction to our nozzles, our equipment, our tactics," he said.

Given the size of the building and the fact that it's county property, a controlled burn would serve as a training exercise for all fire departments in the county -- and possibly for others around the area.

"We try to talk about collaboration with all the departments and common practices and such, so this gives us an opportunity to do that," Healey said.

And burning the grandstand could be significantly cheaper than more traditional demolition.

"We believe that's going to be in the range of 50-thousand," said county coordinator Craig Oscarson. “If you do a burn, you're only going to have to landfill about five percent of the volume."

If the consultant clears the way for burning the grandstand, it will probably happen by the end of the year.

Traditional demolition could take until sometime next spring.