BALLSTON SPA — The aging wooden grandstand at the historic Saratoga County Fairgrounds has been demolished after fair officials determined the cost of major repairs to the structure would be close to the cost of building a new, modern grandstand.
The building was the oldest and most-distinctive on the fairground property, where generations of county residents and visitors have watched everything from horse races to demolition derbies to country rock music concerts. But, fair officials said, age caught up the building.
“Unfortunately the grandstand, which was built in the late 1800s, was demolished,” Fair Executive Director Susan Rhoades said on Wednesday. “Last fall we had an inspection done on the grandstand. The report came back that it was in need of major repairs.”
The demolition is coming in a year when the Saratoga County Agricultural Society — the organization that formally owns the 30-acre fairground — has been hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic and limits on public gatherings. The 2020 county fair, scheduled for late July, was canceled, as were other events that would normally have drawn crowds. Other New York fairs, including the New York State Fair, were also canceled this year to avoid large public gatherings.
The cost of repairs would be in the $750,000 range, Rhoades said, with the possibility of those costs rising higher if new problems were discovered once work on the work started.
“The estimated cost of repair vs. building new were comparable, with the caveat that when and if we started repairs, there could be more needed than meets the eye,” Rhoades said. The board of directors “really evaluated the situation and unanimously made the very difficult decision to demo the grandstand and build new.”
The goal, she said, is to construct a new grandstand that is safe for all and meets guidelines for access for the disabled — something the old grandstand didn’t. “Our goal is to have a safe grandstand that is also compliant with current regulations for all fairgoers and event attendees for years to come,” she said.
Rhoades praised Greenbriar Construction Services, which is doing the demolition work, for being “very good” to the fair in understanding the financial plight it faces this year because of the pandemic’s impact on fairgrounds revenue. “Without their support we may have not been able to get this project underway at this time,” she said.
“This is bittersweet for us, as we are sad to see the oldest building on the property go, we are excited about the new chapter for the Saratoga County Fairgrounds,” Rhoades said.
The fair hopes to begin work on a new plan for a new grandstand in the spring. A fundraising campaign is planned as well.