Prime real estate: Santa Clara Co. disputes Fairgrounds' future

It's a huge lot of land in San Jose considered rundown, underutilized and an eyesore. On Thursday, county leaders shared plans for the future of the Santa Clara County Fairgrounds.

A lot of people in the South Bay remember the fairgrounds in its heyday. It has declined over the years, where it now holds small events here and there. The county wants something grand, but many people at Thursday's meeting want it to stay as is.

The Santa Clara County Fairgrounds has a long history in the South Bay, well known for its annual County Fair. However, over the years, the 150-acre prime piece of land has lost its luster and quite frankly is falling apart.

"The board has been very clear they want to accomplish something that people will be really proud of," said Santa Clara County Director of Asset Bruce Knopf. "Something that's iconic and creates a lot of buzz and excitement."

On Thursday, the county unveiled a new vision for the fairgrounds, where half of the land would be used for sports. The other would be a park similar to Golden Gate Park or New York's Central Park on a much smaller scale.
"If this leaves, if they take this away," said Joan Schramm of Los Gatos. "We probably can't exist."

Joan Schramm is with the Santa Clara Valley Gem and Mineral Society. Her community group has used the fairgrounds for 60 years. She's among the many people against change at the packed meeting.

"It would be a lot cheaper to fix what they got than to build this elaborate system," said Ben Schramm of Los Gatos.

4-H clubs are also concerned.

"I like showing my animals at the fair and a lot of people spend thousands of dollars on their animals," said Brandon Vandercook of the Hilltop 4-H club.

To that end, the county is considering carving 30 acres for an event center to hold the fair or relocating it all together.

"Our fair is already so small every year it's shrinking with the amount of vendors," said Ilona Mauro of the Hilltop 4-H club. "I don't have a lot of public showing up anymore so it's important to keep what we have."

All this is tentative. One of sports teams interested in the land is the minor league team the San Jose Giants. Any of the major professional teams are unlikely to relocate at the Fairgrounds.

"There were rumors some time ago seeking the Raiders," said Knopf. "It was nothing more than a rumor and you can see how long San Jose has been attracting the A's."

One thing the fairgrounds won't be converted to is housing. The county tried that approach a few years back and the developer backed out. Realistically, it's still in its early stages. The plans will be presented to the Board of Supervisors later this month.