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Horse pavillion

The horse pavilion at the Napa County Fairgrounds in Calistoga was the site of a drive-in theater during last week's Napa Valley Film Festival.

CALISTOGA — The city of Calistoga has reached a tentative agreement with the county to buy a portion of the Napa County Fairgrounds.

The city intends to purchase 34.4 acres of the 70.6-acre property, according to a joint press release issued Wednesday morning by the city and the county, after the City Council met in closed session on Tuesday night.

The city will pay $225,000 per acre for a portion of the property including the Calistoga Speedway, Calistoga RV Park, Butler Pavilion, Tubbs Building, Cropp Building and the great lawn. Napa County will retain ownership of the remaining 36.3-acre portion of property which includes Mount St. Helena Golf Course and the Tucker Building.

“This is a mutually beneficial situation for Napa County and the City of Calistoga,” Napa County Board of Supervisors Chair Brad Wagenknecht said. “The Board of Supervisors recognizes the importance of the Fairgrounds to continue serving public uses for current and future generations. We are extremely confident this is a great decision for all Napa County residents, particularly for those living in Calistoga. All our community will continue to enjoy the benefits of this property.”

“While it was the city’s desire to acquire the entire 70-acre parcel, we recognize and appreciate this unique opportunity to secure this property for the benefit of Calistogans for decades to come,” said Calistoga Mayor Chris Canning. “We will always welcome our friends and neighbors from throughout Napa County and beyond to continue to enjoy events and activities hosted on this historic property. We can now move forward with discussions on how best to simultaneously preserve and utilize the grounds for the greatest benefit to Calistoga.”

The council will discuss the matter at its Tuesday, Nov. 20 meeting.

The fairgrounds, home to the official Napa County Fair, has been struggling since 2012, when the state cut funding to support fairgrounds in the midst of a long-running economic crunch. At the same time state funds were cut, the facility was dealing with aging infrastructure and the industry-wide drop in attendance at fairs, along with an archaic legal structure that made it difficult to borrow money or enter into long-term contracts with outside parties to run the facilities.

The county will deliver a draft Purchase & Sale Agreement (PSA) to the city within 14 days. The parties will then work on a mutually acceptable PSA that will be presented to the Board of Supervisors and City Council for final approval.

“After two years of long and sometimes arduous negotiations it is heartening the City and County were able to come together to find a solution, which will be to the mutual benefit of both parties but more importantly, to the benefit of all citizens of Napa County,” said Councilmember Jim Barnes. “This is a rare event, a win for all parties.”

“The Napa County Fair Association is excited about this new chapter in the 80-plus year legacy of the Napa County Fairgrounds and have restructured our organization for a continued role in the fairgrounds’ future,” said Fair Association Board chairwoman Karan Schlegel.

“This new chapter will include a new board, new vision, and opportunities that support the county fairgrounds as a public gathering place for future generations by fundraising for facility and program enhancements. Part of the Association’s plans are to preserve future state funding sources that already exist for the Network of California Fairgrounds by continuing to host county fair events on the grounds,” she said.

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