Avonmore Fair grandstands demolished

A still from Brent MacIntyre's video of the grandstands' demolition yesterday.

A possible future trend for all rural grandstands?

Nelson Zandbergen
Nation Valley News

AVONMORE — The Roxborough Agricultural Society is raising money for new, portable grandstands after demolishing the existing covered structure at the Avonmore fairgrounds this week — the culmination of what longtime Society member and grounds superintendent Brent MacIntyre agrees is a “very unfortunate situation.”

But he adds the township was “only doing its job” in responding to a complaint, two weeks before the 2014 fair, which precipitated the stands’ abrupt closure three years ago and its eventual teardown yesterday (May 3).

Erected around 1978-1989, the structure seated 550 to 600 spectators. Regular maintenance was being performed on the grandstands every year, according to MacIntyre. Then the complaint prompted municipal officials to inspect and consequently demand a follow-up engineer’s report.

Though he wouldn’t elaborate further, MacIntyre said the complaint did not involve injury and wasn’t directed to the Society — the actual owner of the grandstands and property beneath it.

The resulting document from Cornwall-based engineer Vladi Kovinich found almost no rot, according to MacIntyre, but concluded the concrete footings couldn’t adequately resist frost movement. But it seems nobody could provide solid information to the Society on how to fix the problem with a certain cost. “The problem is that once we start replacing the bottom, it snowballs into bringing the whole thing to current code,” he explained.

Rebuilding the whole works — from scratch — could “easily” cost $500,000, he said.

A more limited repair — if accepted by the authorities — might run $75,000, he conceded, also noting the Society did receive an actual quote of $125,000 from a contractor. However, “local building inspectors won’t tell anyone how to repair anything. They defer everything to an engineer’s report,” he explained in an online chat with Nation Valley News.

Existing “architectural components” at the grandstands — things like seating, handrails and steps — were examined and repaired annually before every fair, he said. Every structure on the fairgrounds is already inspected by an engineer on a yearly basis as well.

“Our biggest problem with the whole [grandstands] thing was that even if we repaired the structure underneath, the architecture above would also not meet current code,” he said. “Once we start ‘rebuilding’ there was no choice but to bring the entire structure to current code.”

Better to direct future funds into the eventual replacement of the fair’s old exhibition hall, he said, a project that MacIntyre’s grounds committee has started to look into.

Also helping to seal the grandstands’ fate was advice a Society member heard Saturday at a district meeting of the Ontario Association of Agricultural Societies, where an insurance industry representative delivered a presentation touching on grandstands at Ontario fairgrounds. The rep “advised that going forward, the safest thing was to have all fair property grandstands demolished,” reports MacIntyre.

He suggests the writing may be on the wall for all rural fairground grandstands, destined “to be red-flagged by insurance and this will trickle down to building inspectors.” He also clarifies that he has no “misgivings about how our Berwick [township] office handled things with us. They followed proper protocol and this is only keeping our fair patrons safe.”

In the meantime, Avonmore Fair has arrangements to borrow the Newington Fair’s steel stands but has begun raising funds for its own portable bleachers in aluminum.

Below is MacIntyre’s video of the demolition. An earthen berm will go in where the structure previously sat, he says.


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