In the heart of Roseville near Denio’s Farmers Market and the All American Speedway, a multi-million dollar renovation is revitalizing the Placer County Fairgrounds, recently rebranded as @the Grounds.
Dilapidated buildings, gravel parking spaces and awkward curbing have given way to new landscaping, a repaved parking lot and the restoration of some historic gems — including Gladding, McBean tiles made locally in Lincoln, and wooden beams which had previously been hidden by dated drop down ceilings.
“We’re really trying to weave the heritage of the region into this site, and in addition, positioning it for future generations’ needs,” says David Attaway, CEO of Placer Valley Tourism and @the Grounds.
When complete, @the Grounds’ event space will be able to accommodate up to 5,000 people, which could draw large conferences and trade shows from all over the country. According to Attaway, the annual economic revenue is estimated at $12 million to be shared among the cities of Roseville, Rocklin and Lincoln, and the total price tag for the project, including a 130,000-square foot events center to be built in the next few years, is estimated at $40 million.
Up to this point, Placer County has lacked the capabilities to market to other areas for major events. “The ability to have all of that in one location and the synergy it creates will be terrific,” Attaway says.
While the fairgrounds have been a part of the community since the 1930s — a place where popular annual events like the Roseville BerryFest and the Placer County Fair occur — the county knew it needed a facelift.
“Seventy years ago, the property was dedicated in perpetuity for a county fair,” says Jack Duran, Placer County Supervisor for District 1, which includes Roseville. “We decided that the fairgrounds were an important hub for the community, but they needed to be upgraded.”
The state used to fund county fairs, but it cut all funding in 2010 and hurt fairgrounds throughout the state — including Placer County. After back-and-forth among local officials about what to do with the space, the county created the Fairgrounds Revitalization Committee in 2014 to study the possibilities.
Madeline Miller, a Roseville resident since 2002, was one of the local citizens who joined the committee, which held meetings, hosted speakers from the county fair community and heard public comments at Placer County Board of Supervisors meetings.
“It became clear after a few months how important the fairgrounds were to our community,” Miller says.
At the time, the fairgrounds served as a special events space and the site of Roseville Community Preschool, which Miller’s children attended. It was (and still is) also used as an evacuation center during natural disasters in the surrounding region.
“Its potential was so huge, and we had to find a way to make it work,” Miller says.
Meanwhile, Placer Valley Tourism commissioned a feasibility study for an events center in Placer County. Placer Valley Tourism is the county’s business improvement district, responsible for generating revenue through hotel stays within south Placer County. After efforts to develop a sports complex in West Roseville fell through, the organization was searching for a project to attract out-of-town visitors.
The timing was fortuitous. Placer Valley Tourism and the fairgrounds committee connected, and agreed that reviving an area with historic meaning to Roseville was the best approach to bringing more events to Placer County.
“The opportunity to renovate the fairgrounds made sense,” says Attaway. “No one had the wherewithal to invest money in it before, but Placer Valley Tourism has the luxury to be able to put our community and economic impact first.”
Miller says Placer Valley Tourism’s proposal aligned with goals the committee set on day one.
The $8 million first-phase renovation included restoration of @the Grounds’ Jones and Johnson Halls, new landscaping and a repaving of the main parking lot, along with 21 other repairs. It was completed in November, five months after Placer Valley Tourism took over the fairgrounds management on July 1.
Duran says @the Grounds positions Placer County as a major player both regionally and nationally, making it viable to hold events and bring people in.
A major goal, however, is to ensure it’s still a place that serves the local community.
“We will always be home to the Placer County Fair, and want to make it bigger and better than ever,” says Attaway.