In the early 1900s, when the grandfather of Livermore's Deacon Dave Rezendes decided to switch from raising dairy cows to beef cattle, he made his way by horse over to Pleasanton to the county fair to explore his options.
"My grandfather decided on the Herefords," said Rezendes. "He also bought a new buckboard on one of his visits to the fair."
Rezendes was in attendance May 21 when residents, city staff and two Pleasanton council members gathered to hear ideas and offer improvements to the 270-acre Alameda County Fairgrounds.
The meeting, the second of its kind, provided community members an opportunity to add to the 135 suggestions already gathered by Municipal Resource Group, the consulting firm working with the fair board and its chief executive, Jerome Hoban, to develop a master plan for improvement and sustainability of the fairgrounds.
Consultant Mike Oliver began with an overview of the visioning process, which began in 2011 and identified the fair's unique contributions. The current phase of the master plan is to complete an updated assessment of finances, programs, facilities and the site itself in tandem with community input.
Based on input, one tentative idea is to make better commercial use of the building and parking area that now houses off-track wagering, which would require relocating the satellite wagering elsewhere on the fairgrounds.
Another idea is to ease traffic congestion by building an additional entrance and access road from Bernal Avenue into the fairgrounds.
One idea that generated several questions is to construct a turf track for horse racing within the perimeter of the existing 1-mile racetrack. Most of the premier racetracks in California include turf tracks, said Hoban.
In fact, the Alameda County Fair Association, which is the nonprofit agency that operates the fair on behalf of the county, has partnered with Oak Tree Racing Association, another nonprofit that conducts thoroughbred horse racing. Oak Tree Racing is making significant improvements to areas adjacent to the racetrack, such as the winners circle and the grandstands, and would likely build the turf track if the decision is made to proceed.
Oliver and Hoban also noted that while the fairgrounds are used for 350 events every year, some 70 percent of total revenue comes from just three events: the Scottish Games, the Good Guys car shows and the county fair.
Because attendance and revenue at these events can be affected by weather, the fair board is seeking to add reliable revenue streams not dependent on good weather but that are complementary to the fair. This could mean forging partnerships with companies that offer revenue-producing amenities.
Despite the nostalgia that can come with plans for change, those in attendance expressed support for making improvements once funding sources can be found to make it happen.
Rezendes, who as a teenager got his first job at the fair in the small animal area, is looking ahead: "It's exciting to see progress," he said. "It's needed."
Contact Jim Ott at firstname.lastname@example.org.