During the last Council meeting, Councilmember Kraus pondered what would be the look of the fairgrounds if the City did purchase it. First, we would like to direct the Council's attention to a new section on the Friends of Napa County Fairgrounds website, which includes comments and ideas from the citizens of Calistoga and passionate users of the property. The community feedback can be viewed on our website below the feedback submission form.
Gain Control of the Entire Property
The City of Calistoga needs to gain long term control of the Napa County Fairgrounds. This can be from outright purchase or long-term lease agreement. This would include the golf course. The City should approach the County about a $1.00 per year lease for the golf course property. This would put maintenance of the golf course property under the control of the City instead of a disinterested County agency. This would allow the property to be consistently mowed and the wastewater irrigation system be maintained and utilized to the best level of efficiency.
Appoint a Five Person Fairgrounds Facility Commission
The City Council should appoint a five-member commission to oversee the future of fairgrounds property. Each Councilmember would appoint one member. Members would be from within the 94515 zip code or the Calistoga school district area. The Commission would be charged with directing the future path of the property by prioritizing improvements, developing a suggested long term master plan for approval by the Council, and overseeing bringing the property back online to its full potential.
Hire an Experienced Facility and Event Manager
This is one of the only direct hires we feel is important for the City to hire. We do not believe the City currently has anyone in their employ that meets the very specific qualifications to manage events, interact with promoters and oversee improvements necessary at the facility. Because the event manager will not be directly running specific events, we do not see the need to hire a large support staff. This department could be a sole person department for day to day operations. An experienced person should be able to solicit and work with private promoters wishing to rent facilities to generate revenue for the facility for it to become self-sustaining.
Golf Course Acreage
Because the County has allowed the golf course to deteriorate so badly, we acknowledge this will require a full scale effort to bring it back to a usable golf course. In the interim, the City as stated above, should offer to lease the property for $1.00 per year until the sale of this acreage can be finalized. Until the golf course can be operational again, during that time, mowing and vegetation control can be contracted out to a private firm. Existing public works staff would maintain all irrigation related to treated wastewater dispersal. Concurrently, the City can solicit for a private firm to restore, maintain and manage future golf course operations. The contractor should also work with possible local resort facilities or other industries about sponsorship, which could include naming rights, and special golf related events. We do not feel the City is in a position to manage a golf course facility, again due to the specialized nature of running such a facility. Apart from special events, the course would remain open to the public for the year. The contractor would be encouraged to work with Calistoga High School to restore a student golfing team.
The Speedway component of the facility should also be contracted out to a private firm with specialized knowledge and experience running such a venue. They would be responsible for putting on a number of events during the year. This could include different series of race cars, motorcycle racing events and other such events. Race events in the past have been primarily been completely handled by the race promoter. This includes staffing, track preparation and the actual operation of the event.
The RV park is another element that should be contracted out to a private management firm. This important part of the property generates TOT funds for the city and provides affordable opportunities and accommodations for visitors of Calistoga.
This Next 18 Months
The managing agency of the facility needs to overcome the temptation to have quasi permanent uses of the main event buildings (namely the Tubbs building and Butler Pavilion). Keeping them available for emergency sheltering for natural or manmade disasters, cooling center duties and distribution of food, blood banks, testing and vaccination clinics are just a few of the public events the facilities need to remain available for. It also needs to remain available for special event bookings to generate revenue for the ongoing health of the facility. With the attraction of Calistoga and the Napa Valley, facility bookings should not be difficult to draw visitors and residents alike to the facility for the overall benefit of the community.
Clearly, there are certain improvements that need to be made before some specific elements can return to operational status, but that doesn't mean many events cannot be held because of the deferred maintenance. It is more important to open up what we can, start booking events which gathers momentum, while also providing a revenue source to implement the repairs and improvements. The most important starting point is to gain control of the property.
Friends of Napa County Fairgrounds