Given recent public statements about action taken by the Napa Valley Exposition Board of Directors related to the status of the lease with the Napa Valley Model Railroad Historical Society, I am providing more complete information and context to the plans that led to the Board’s decision.
It is important to note that the 34-acre Napa Valley Expo is owned by the state. The Expo Board is responsible for operating the property in a manner that is financially self-supporting, prioritizes health and safety, and serves our community.
The Board, which represents the 25th District Agricultural Association, has been developing a property master plan for over three years. This process has included numerous public meetings, stakeholder outreach and financial analysis. Renters and leaseholders, including representatives of the model railroad club, provided feedback in those master plan study sessions as well as in regular Board meetings. Flexibility and developing facilities with multi-use capabilities is a focus of the draft master plan.
During months of visioning sessions, Board members agreed that the building used for the model railroad display was one of several structures that would be removed to improve access onto the grounds, enhance vehicle and pedestrian circulation, and provide more flexible spaces for existing and new users of the property.
Earlier this year, model railroad club leaders requested clarity about their lease, which expires at the end of 2017. This led to the item being put on the Board’s agenda on July 25.
The model railroad club, which a representative recently stated operates for limited hours on 68 scheduled days out of the year, has enjoyed rent on the Expo grounds for many years that is significantly below market rate. Over the last 10 years, the club paid between $144-$180 per month to rent the building.
Issues related to the model railroad structure’s fire safety, ADA accessibility and building code compliance were considered by the Board as well.
Enhancements of the property along Third Street include a new entrance, expanded parking lot, and a new multi-purpose building that would host uses including the Home & Garden Show, quilt show, dog show, and a broad spectrum of activities and events.
This redesigned space will allow for an updated and expanded junior livestock area in a prominent and central location on the property, which supports the long-term viability of the Napa Town & Country Fair and youth agricultural organizations, like 4-H.
Implementing these and other key physical improvements will allow the Board to promote its mission and vision for the Expo, maintain financial sustainability and continue to serve our diverse Napa County population.
John F. Dunbar
President, Board of Directors
Napa Valley Exposition
Editor’s Note: The Napa Valley Expo Board reports it recently initiated a dialogue with owners of the Napa Valley Wine Train and officers of the Napa Valley Model Railroad Historical Society, who are in discussions.