Tuesday, June 26, 2018

Winnebago County eyes expansion of Expo Center site to accommodate larger Oshkosh events

This satellite image from Google shows the area around the Sunnyview Expo Center.
This post has been updated to correct the recent growth of Lifest.

By Moira Danielson

Winnebago County has set its sights on 20 acres of land to the east of the Sunnyview Expo Center to help expand room for events that come to Oshkosh, including horse shows and the annual Lifest.

“The various horse shows that have long been the mainstay of summer programming and revenue at the Expo Center have been increasing in size,” said County Parks Director Robert Way.

“Because these shows are now bringing in more and more RVs, campers and horse trailers onto the site, staff is beginning to struggle with where to park these large rigs so they don’t interfere with other programs using the main parking lot and causing electrical overloads in some areas.”

Way said the department chief is looking to solve space issues with housing all of the people that come to Oshkosh to participate in the shows.

“In particular, the department’s chief concern is that once the new stadium begins to regularly attract crowds of 5,000 or more, the main parking lot will begin to fill up to support the stadium shows as well as events using the exposition building, which will force management to have to move horse show parking and camping into the limited space presently available on the east side of the Expo,” Way said. “As these horse shows continue to grow this limited space will quickly be used up and there will be no additional areas left unless new land is added to the east.”

Another event that is expected to grow is the Lifest event, a music festival put on by Life Promotions.



“It had originally been calculated that with these adjustments being made, Life Promotions would have a 10 year supply of land available to be able to address their increasing camping needs,” Way said.

This calculation was based on the festival growing at 6 percent a year. But “for this year’s 2018 Lifest the promoter has experienced a 23 15 percent increase in camping reservations,” Way said.

“Thus, with this year’s growth in camping alone, Life Promotions is already three two years ahead of where the organization is supposed to be in accounting for available camping space at the Expo.”

The county last month originally submitted an offer to purchase to the Netzer family, which has owned the parcel of land for the last 50 years. Although this was rejected, the family came back with a counteroffer at a price of $8,750 per acre, according to county records.

“The $175,000 counter offer subsequently fell within the range of what the county felt was acceptable and the processes required to have the matter go before the county board for consideration have since moved forward,” Way said.

Way said the parks department has started forming a plan for the new area expansion for the expo center including the most important needs that need to be included.

“As an early finding of that process it has been determined that one of the primary facility needs that must be addressed is to both improve and expand the hard surface parking areas at the site,” Way said. “Unfortunately, one of the main challenges that will need to be overcome in doing so will require that the County dedicate new areas of the grounds exclusively towards the handling of stormwater runoff produced by the added hard surfacing.”

Way said if the land is acquired, it would take a couple of years to bring the land up to standards with other camping areas before it is usable.

“Consequently, it will require between two-to-three years of development before it will be viable to use for camping purposes,” Way said. “It is estimated that given this three year schedule, the total conversion cost will come-out to approximately $21,000 (labor, material and equipment included) most of which will be completed using in-house resources and the County Highway Department.”

Way said this kind of land opportunity is a way to stop any arising problems the Expo Center may face in the future.

“It is to be noted that this property coming on the market is a once in a generation opportunity to purchase land to buffer the expo grounds from what may eventually become conflicting development,” Way said. “The purchase, several years ago, of the annex property (former Sportsman’s Park) proved to be invaluable for continued growth of events taking place on the grounds.”

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