Sheep will have a temporary home at the New York State Fair this year.
Fair Director Troy Waffner said Wednesday that the sheep barn, which was built in 1957, will be demolished. A New Year's Eve windstorm damaged 25 percent of the roof, Waffner revealed. Due to the damage, fair officials opted to replace the structure.
For the 2019 fair, two tents will be set up near the Dairy Cow Birthing Center for sheep exhibitors. Waffner said the plan is for a new sheep barn to be built in time for the 2020 fair.
The sheep barn is in an area of the fairgrounds the state plans to improve over the next several years. The 2019-20 state budget included an additional $2.5 million for the state fair.
The barn, which is in the shadow of the new Exposition Center that opened in 2018, is part of a cluster of agriculture buildings on the west end of the fairgrounds.
"It's a sight of blight right now," Waffner said. He added that the facilities are "dilapidated."
Waffner's vision includes the development of a master plan. He wants to improve structures that are vital for the fairgrounds' year-round operation, namely the Dairy Products Building and the Tractor Supply Co. Exhibit Center.
The exhibit center, which houses cows during the fair, is used for non-fair events when promoters have two-building shows. The exhibit center, Waffner said, "needs a hug."
Fair officials will also consider a new development in their plan. Beginning this year, Centro's Park-N-Ride shuttles will pick up and drop off passengers at Gate 10 on the west end of the fairgrounds. Until this year, buses had a drop-off area near the main gate.
With the change, the fair wants to see how people travel from the gate through the fairgrounds. They will use cameras to monitor foot traffic and observe trends among fairgoers.
"People are like cattle," Waffner said. "They make their own trails."
A major focus of the investment will be continuing to improve the fairgrounds infrastructure. Waffner admitted that it's "not sexy" compared to a new expo center or the expanded midway, but it's an important part of the property.
The infrastructure improvements include new signage, replacing roofs, paving and sewer and water upgrades. Dave Bullard, the fair's spokesman, said they could probably spend 10 times the additional funding they received — $2.5 million — on infrastructure projects.
Sprucing up the buildings and grounds is part of Cuomo's mandate to make the fairgrounds a functional year-round facility, Waffner explained.
The additional funding this year, he noted, will help the fair "complete projects which will benefit the fair for generations to come."
The 2019 fair opens Aug. 21.