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Fair board, Kroger discuss land purchase

Melissa Topey • Mar 5, 2014 at 9:41 AM

Kroger is again in talks with the Sandusky County fair board to possibly purchase a portion of a parking lot across the street from the fairgrounds.

The large grocery chain has again approached the fair board to negotiate a possible purchase, said Harold Overmyer, Sandusky County Fair board president.

“We are looking at every option. No decision has been made,” Overmyer said. “We are trying to protect the fairgrounds so that it never disappears”

The location causing the uproar is a portion of the parking lot at North Street and Ohio 53, across from the Sandusky County fairgrounds.

The possible sale of the land first created controversy in November, when news of Kroger approaching the board became public. Residents expressed concern this was the first step in encroaching on the fairgrounds.

At that time, the talks never moved past an informal stage and the sale never happened.

But Kroger recently came back to the board.

The last time Overmyer talked to Kroger was two weeks ago. The grocer is slated to come up with plans and a contract to present to the board, but until then there are no definitive details to share, he said.

“Once we having something in black and white from Kroger we will have a meeting for input from the public” Overmyer said.

A deal with Kroger for the space would help bolster the fairgrounds, which requires a lot of upkeep, maintenance and repairs, Overmyer said.

“We are trying to secure its future” Overmyer said.

A sale could benefit the Fremont Speedway and strengthen the community, Overmyer said.

News of the development is disappointing to Fremont Speedway owner Rich Farmer.

The Fremont Speedway, approaching its 63rd year of racing, operates at the fairgrounds with three-year contracts. The current contract has them locked into a deal until 2017. After that, there’s no guarantee of what will happen, Farmer said.

“I was verbally told there was no deal. That it was a dead issue,” Farmer said. “I guess things come back to life”

Farmer said he knows no details other than negotiations are ongoing.

While he’s uncertain what this deal means to the Fremont Speedway, Farmer holds out hope for one thing.

“That it solidifies Fremont Speedway’s future” Farmer said.

Kroger is not looking to disrupt the fairgrounds or the Fremont Speedway, said Jackie Siekmann, Kroger spokeswoman.

“We recognize this is a historic piece of property, that is a big deal” Siekmann said. “We support 4-H and FFA. We will not interrupt the fair or the speedway”

She stressed the property they are looking at is a portion of a parking lot. Kroger would work with the fair board to purchase another piece of land for the fairgrounds to use, she said.

But the land at North Street and Ohio 53 is an ideal place for a Marketplace Kroger.

A Marketplace Kroger is larger than a typical Kroger store — about 125,000 square feet, compared to the 80,000 square feet of a normal Kroger.

It holds more general merchandise including apparel, jewelry, baby items and a small automotive section.

“Our studies show the Fremont area supports this type of store,” Siekmann said.

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