Fairground sports plan moves ahead

Davison County commissioners and the fair board are taking steps toward allowing local youth to use the fairgrounds building as a sports complex at a reduced cost.

County officials are moving forward with a proposal to use the Davison County Fairgrounds complex, pictured here, for sports practices.

Davison County commissioners and the fair board are taking steps toward allowing local youth to use the fairgrounds building as a sports complex at a reduced cost.

During public input at Tuesday’s regular commission meeting at the courthouse in Mitchell, Commissioner Gerald Weiss announced the fair board met Monday night concerning a request to allow the county-owned fairgrounds building to host local athletic teams from December through March.

Weiss, a member of the fair board, said there was a long discussion with Avera Queen of Peace Sports Enhancement Outreach Coordinator Scott Houwman, of Mitchell, who brought the initial proposal to the Nov. 12 county commission meeting. After discussion Monday night, the fair board unanimously recommended to move forward with Houwman’s proposal.

“We spent better than an hour with Scott and there were a lot of questions asked and a lot of questions answered,” Weiss said. “One of the concerns was cleanup after things are done. They would do that. Another concern was damage, and they have their own insurance. Also, for security reasons, he is going to put in a couple security cameras.”

The commissioners took no vote Tuesday, but nobody spoke against pursuing the project further. They discussed trying to assemble a proposed contract by the next meeting, which starts at 9 a.m. Tuesday at the courthouse in Mitchell. Auditor Susan Kiepke said she will contact the county’s attorney to draft a contract.


Houwman, of Avera University Physical Therapy, wants to add batting cages, netting around the building’s advertisements and artificial turf. All of the equipment added would stay in the building but could be hidden, lifted or removed when other events are in progress. He wants to use the building specifically for baseball and softball, but added indoor soccer, volleyball, competitive cheer, tennis and football could be possibilities. The activity would mostly be limited to practices but could include some competitions.

“I’m optimistically pleased,” Houwman said of the early support. “We want to make sure we do this the right way, and we’re trying to be sensitive to the needs of the 4-H folks and the commissioners. We want to provide a place for the kids to work as hard as they can in their respective sport.”

At the Nov. 12 commission meeting, Houwman said the county’s rates to rent the fairgrounds building would be too high for his proposed use. To rent the entire activity center, it costs $375 per day. Weiss told the commissioners Tuesday the fair board and Houwman discussed renting the building for $1,000 per month for four months.

Commissioner John Claggett was concerned about the proposed rate.

“That’s because of the heat and utilities,” he said. “By the time you open and close the doors in the winter time, you lose all that.”

Weiss said the rate is a way to get the youth teams started, and added rental fees could increase in the future.

“Scott has been fielding a lot of calls already wanting kids to sign up,” Weiss said.

Houwman said he’s received interest from coaches at Dakota Wesleyan University and from the Mitchell Soccer Association about using the facility. He’s asking anyone interested in using the building to contact him.


Weiss said the building would only be available to be used as a sports facility whenever it’s not scheduled for other events, such as agriculture-related youth and 4-H activities, meetings, shows, exhibits, auctions, rummages, flea markets, receptions and family reunions.

“If this works out, it’s going to be wonderful for our youth, and down the road it’s going to be good income,” Weiss said.

Weiss said Houwman figured it would cost about $5,000 to purchase and install batting cages, and the cost will be borne by Avera or private entities. A set of wires in the ceiling would need to be installed to hoist the cages when they’re not in use. Houwman did not give a dollar estimate in his early findings on what the project will cost and said he will have to meet with hospital administration.

“Prices are all over the board,” he said. “I believe I can be responsible for putting together a plan for hospital administration that has a reasonable chance at success.”

Other business

In other business, the commissioners:

  • Held a discussion about starting formal personnel reviews annually for non-elected directors of the county - the emergency manager/planning and zoning director, assessor, veterans services officer, maintenance director, highway superintendent and welfare director.
  • Held an executive session, but took no action, on negotiations with a union that includes the corrections staff at the county jail.
  • Heard a third-quarter report from community health nurse Natalie Van Drongelen, who said there were 123 immunizations and tuberculosis skin tests during the quarter; 24 risk assessments completed; 63 baby care contacts made; a total of 279 clients were seen during the quarter; from Jan. 1 to Sept. 30, 435 unduplicated clients had been seen for family planning services; Birth to 3 screenings have been completed in both Ethan and Mount Vernon schools; and the state health and disease summary for October states that through October, there were 144 cases of West Nile virus in the state with three cases in Davison County.
  • Approved a letter showing support for Mitchell Technical Institute’s grant application to the state for installation of walking trails on the new southern campus along I-90.
  • Approved a resolution to make Claggett and Kiepke signatories to finalize the sale of a parcel of previously auctioned county land to Boyd Reimnitz, of Reimnitz Properties.
  • Approved a raffle request for Natalie Piehl, an employee at Poet, to help fund a mission trip to Kenya.
Luke Hagen was promoted to editor of the Mitchell Republic in 2014. He has worked for the newspaper since 2008 and has covered sports, outdoors, education, features and breaking news. He can be reached at
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