With damage done by severe storms at two state fairs last year fresh in memory, the Missouri State Fair staff wants to build some safe places for its guests to take cover.
The House Budget Committee has approved a capital improvement package that includes over $86,000 from the Agriculture Protection Fund, toward building four storm shelters on the State Fairgrounds. The 1,500 square foot safe houses would hold up to about 200 people each and be rated to withstand winds up to 250 miles-per-hour.
State Fair Director Mark Wolfe says several events last year illustrated the need for these shelters. “Unfortunately it takes sometimes tragedies like what something that happened in Indiana at the state fair grounds to make people wake up and go, ‘What are we doing on our end?'”
Last year, strong winds caused the collapse of a concert stage at the Indiana State Fair. Seven people were killed and 43 were injured. Another storm during the Missouri State Fair blew down some tents and other temporary structures, but no injuries were reported.
Wolfe says in that incident, the Fair staff had plenty of advanced warning and evacuated campers into the Mathewson Exhibition Center, the National Guard facility and the assembly hall that are on the grounds. “The problem there would be that if we didn’t have that much notice, would we have had time to get those people out of that campground and across and over on to the main body (of the grounds) to do that.”
The plan is to build these four shelters in the campground area, but Wolfe stresses, they will not take the place of the current shower houses.
$86,000 would be the state’s match toward an application for a federal grant. The total project is expected to cost $345,000.
The appropriation bill passed by the House Budget Committee must be approved by another committee before it can be debated by the full chamber.