Deschutes County Fairgrounds Expo Center Putting Room Tax Money to Good Use


In November 2013, Deschutes County voters approved measure 9-96, the Deschutes County Transient Room Tax. The measure, which raised the transient room tax in unincorporated parts of Deschutes County from 7 percent to 8 percent, was intended to promote local tourism though increased promotion. With more money budgeted for marketing, the Deschutes County Fairgrounds Expo Center have seen the fruits of their promotion labor paying off.

“The increase in room tax revenue for marketing has allowed us to widen our marketing efforts resulting in an increase of 18 events, which of course will help us generate more money for reserves and or improvements,” says Expo Center Director Dan Despotopulos.

An additional $325,000 budgeted for the 2014-15 fiscal year allowed the Fairgrounds to redesign their website as well as enhance their social media, print media and television and radio advertising. In comparison, prior to the tax increase, the Fairgrounds budgeted $35,000 for marketing.

The Fairgrounds also sent their sales and marketing coordinator, Roxia Thornton Todoroff, to the National Association of Sports Commissions to court various groups looking to rent space for events. She met with twenty-two different clients and sent out thirteen proposals.

“The increased marketing allows us to show what a phenomenal facility we have,” reiterates Despotopulos.

The Fairgrounds, which operates as a self-sustaining business, is essentially three businesses in one. The Deschutes County Fair & Rodeo may be a local favorite, but the 106-space RV Park is also having its best year ever. However, the Expo Center events are the main revenue source.

“The Fair and Expo center is very important to Redmond’s economy, specifically tourism, which many of our businesses count on,” says Eric Sande, executive director of the Redmond Chamber of Commerce and CVB. “So, the Chamber spends a lot of time and effort supporting ensuring the fairground’s success.”

The National Tourism Council estimates the Fairgrounds’ 2014 economic impact on Central Oregon at $28 million. This year, that impact has been $33 million so far. Since its opening, they have generated over $250 million to the local economy, with over 3000 events.

2014 saw approximately 1.4 million people enjoy the Fairgrounds’ events. That number tends to rise by about 6 percent each year. The weeklong County Fair & Rodeo had 258,000 visitors last year.

The Fairgrounds prefers to maintain between 2 percent and 5 percent of of the building’s original cost, or between $300,000 and $1.5 million in the Capital Fund Reserve. They currently have $400,000 in reserves, with another $60,000 budgeted for the next fiscal year beginning July 1. Since opening, the Fairgrounds has invested over $5 million in improvements, including building the RV Park, covering the Sagebrush Arena, purchasing horse stalls and replacing the flooring in the Middle Sister Conference Hall.

The increased revenue will hopefully fill the gap in the reserves and allow for future building improvements. Over the next five years, the Fairgrounds hope to bring power and water to the Sagebrush Arena, replace picnic tables, add air conditioning to the Event Center, and increase inventories to accommodate larger groups. They would also like to perform an electrical upgrade to Carnival Area, replace the Event Center floor, upgrade the lighting in the Middle Sister building and replace the flooring in the South Sister building.

The Fairgrounds will be updating their electronics, such as new video screens, in the conference centers of the nearly seventeen year old facility. This spring they spent $12,000 fixing their well.

“I believe we are one of the only facilities that has a reserve fund,” says Despotopulos. We do have the largest County Fair in the state and generate more revenue than other fairgrounds in the state.”

Major upcoming events include the Morgan Horse Show Championships, which draw participants from across the west coast. The Annual High School State Equestrian Championships, rescheduled due to a horse virus, will have 800 competitors this June. The Expo Center is currently in the third year of a five year contract with the Oregon School Activities Association. The American Dairy Goat Championships will see thousands of goats and their handlers next month. Each event brings in much needed revenue for both the Fairgrounds and the local Central Oregon economy.

Preparations are underway for the fair and rodeo, which runs Wednesday, July 29 through Sunday, August 2. Headlining music acts include rock band Hinder on Wednesday night, country singer songwriter Martina McBride on Thursday, soft rock band America on Friday, and country star Joe Nichols on Saturday. New to the rodeo is Sunday’s Wild West Show. Although the parade was cancelled this year, a committee has met to discuss its resurgence in 2016. The main idea floating around is to move the parade from downtown Redmond to the fairgrounds in an effort to allow participation from 4H and FFA participants. Currently, kids enrolled in the two programs are unable to attend due to do showing and caring for their animals at the same time as the parade.

3800 SW Airport Way, Redmond, OR 97756, 541-548-2711,

(Photo above: Deschutes County Fair & Expo Bank of the Cascades Center | Photo courtesy of Deschutes County Fair & Expo)


About Author

Bend-based freelance writer Gregg Morris honed his wit in suburban Michigan and his gift for the written word at Michigan State University. When not writing, Gregg can be found riding his bike, earning his turns, or playing guitar alongside his wife and daughter.

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