TROY — Serving as the centerpiece of the Miami County Fairgrounds for a century, the grandstand has served as an entertainment venue for tens of thousands of area residents.
From stunt shows and horse races, to band shows and pulls of many kinds, the grandstand — now commonly referred to as the stadium — has officially offered entertainment to fair-goers and beyond for 100 years.
The grand structure, planted in the middle of the fairgrounds, is said to have cost $35,000 in 1916, but likely would cost $1.3 million today, according to fair manager Jill Wright. She said that is the estimate the fair board has been given with the amount of concrete, seating and restroom facilities the building features.
Replacing the previous wooden stadium, the new stadium was built in 1916, and finished enough to be usable for that year’s fair.
A Troy Daily News article from Jan. 10, 1916, “Capacious and Safe is New Grandstand,” says F.O. Mueller of Hamilton, the architect, brought plans to the Miami County Commissioners and committee of the fair board for the new grandstand — made of steel and concrete. The fireproof structure would then only have wood at the bottom of the opera, or folding seats.
The wooden stadium seats have since been replaced with plastic opera seats, according to Wright.
In the 1916 article, it says the building, 226 feet in length and 70 feet wide, would be built with a seating capacity of 3,000. Wright said that remains true, and fair board members hope to fill each and every seat at this year’s fair concert featuring Chris Janson and others.
An iron railing in front of the ticket windows will prevent unnecessary crowding during the rush hours, the article also stated. However, Wright said the railing has been removed.
Located in the west end of the building were plans for a secretary’s office, which opened into a director’s room, the article said. Three windows in each room will be used for ticket offices for the grandstand, the article continues. Wright said she doesn’t believe the secretary’s office ever has actually been housed at the stadium, and today there remains a separate secretary’s office building. The area, however, is still used for a speed office to declare horses and as will-call windows for the annual concert. The area also is used for storage, she said.
Two restrooms for women, one public, one for those in the grandstand, will be located in the west end of the building. Similar rooms for men will be located in the end of the structure. Wright said all restroom facilities remain today, and all are functional.
The article also stated that entrance to the grandstand will be provided by four stairways, each 6 feet in width, while in the center of the structure will be a stairway 12 feet wide. Running full length of the grandstand in front and at the rear of the seats will be passageways, each 4 feet wide. Wright said this remains true as of today.
The 1916 article continued with “located under the grandstand is 11 booths, 10 of them open to the public, the 11th for grandstand patrons. Each booth will be electrically lighted and and have city water.” Today, according to Wright, the booths have been reduced to five, including one for the beer garden, one each for the Newton and Bethel Music Boosters, a Chinese food vendor and inside the stadium for visitors to stadium events.
The extension roof provided will protect seat holders “from the sun’s rays until a late hour in the afternoon and at the same time will provide an unobstructed view of the entire race.” Again, Wright said the extended roof remains today to provide cover from the sun for patrons.
Minor changes were expected, with the final cost of the new structure set at about $35,000, the Troy Daily News article said.
A March 15, 1916, Troy Daily News ran a follow-up story that said the old grandstand would be razed by the end of the week to make way for the new, updated stadium that was to be in place prior to the 1916 fair.
Following dismantling of the old grandstand, the story said the timbers and lumber were then reused to erect a machinery hall.
The article said with the arrival of spring, the Hanneman Brothers of Detroit, Mich., would begin work on the new concrete and steel grandstand.
A fair-time article in the Troy Daily News — “New Grandstand is Feature of 1916 Fair” — says, “The grandstand has not its equal in Ohio and though at present it appears rough in finish, its architectural-beauty will stand out distinct when all the work is completed.” The article says that some of the work was not finished prior to the fair, but would be finished immediately following the event. A new judges stand also was erected at the time.
“The folding seats are extremely comfortable, the aisles are wide and the steps are easy,” the story read. “It is absolutely fireproof and is a decided improvement over the old wooden structure, which was used for years.”
A bronze plate on the northwest corner of the grandstand, remaining today, bears this inscription: “1916; building committee, G. A. Fry, president, C. D. Martin, secretary, Charles W. Kline, Roy H. Woodcox, J. H. Miller, secretary; county commissioners, C. M. Hunt, B. Levering, C. H. Jackson, F. G. Mueller, architect; Hanneman Brothers, builders.”
Information framed in the Secretary’s Office at the fairgrounds, written by Leo E. Rasor from an interview with crewman Raleigh Alexander in 1990, says the grandstand was the first building in the area to use washed gravel in the making of the concrete. At the gravel pit, the gravel was shoveled on to self-unloading gravel wagon beds. It was then pulled by a team of horses to the fairgrounds and unloaded, then shoveled into a pit filled with water for washing. It was then removed from the pit with a conveyor, powered by an 8 horsepower single-cylinder gas engine and screened, to separate the sand, aggregate, and large stone before it was shoveled into the cement mixer with water and cement.
Today, the stadium continues to host a multitude of events, according to Wright. She said this year, the stadium will see such events as the truck and tractor pulls, livestock scramble, harness racing, veterans ceremony, human tractor pull, kiddie tractor pulls, band spectacular. and of course, the Sunday night concert featuring Chris Janson.
“We’d like to see all 3,000 of those stadium seats filled that night for sure,” she said.
The horsemen also train on the half-mile track, Wright said, and the fairgrounds has increased its number of horsemen utilizing the track with the recent loss of the Montgomery County Fairgrounds.
In July, the fair board loaned the use of the stadium for the Hope Over Heroin event.
Fair board members watch over the needs of the stadium and in the past several years had the stadium painted by Skinner Painting of Piqua. This year, they are painting the roof of the 100-year-old structure.
Some of the gates also have been repaired to make it look nicer, Wright said, and the track is being resurfaced this year for the harness racing, which will see an extra night during the fair.
“That will be really nice for the horsemen,” Wright said.
Current fair board members hope the stadium will stand watch over the fairgrounds for another 100 years for the enjoyment of the community, Wright said.
“It’s historical. Not every fairgrounds has one,” Wright said. “It’s kind of like the centerpiece of the fairgrounds. We’re proud of it and plan to use it for many years to come.”
Reach Melody Vallieu at [email protected] or (937) 552-2131