The Independence Chamber of Commerce has resurrected the idea of a new festival grounds site that would be a permanent home for the Santa-Cali-Gon Days Festival, though Chamber President Tom Lesnak says there probably won't be significant movement this year.
“It's really exploratory,” he said, noting that the chamber first discussed the idea at the turn of the century, centered around the Allis Chalmers industrial site on Pacific Avenue between Pleasant and Cottage streets but ultimately abandoned it about 2011.
“It goes back to the early 2000s. The concept was put out there of where a festival grounds might be, and that it would have an amphitheater built in that could be used year-round, but it didn't really go anywhere.”
Sonsi Bleckinger, this year's chamber board chairperson, said she wanted the chamber to take another look at a possible festival grounds facility that could be used for other community events. Santa-Cali-Gon, the chamber's top fundraiser held over Labor Day weekend, has been on the Independence Square for its lifetime.
Lesnak said such a discussion will be a multi-year process, and if a festival grounds facility came to fruition it probably similar to a quarter-century ago, when the chamber raised its own money to construct its current headquarters on Truman Road.
“We're not going into it with any preconceived notion of where it will be,” Lesnak said. “We're not assuming city participation, grants or anything like that.
“The first thing we've got to figure out is, does this even make sense. Then if it does, you look at possible finances.”
Lesnak said the 33-acre Allis Chalmers site remains intriguing, in part because it now has just one owner and there is no church partial ownership like before. They would have to deal with possible soil contamination, but Lesnak said the chamber will meet soon with the property owner and have some “preliminary talks” about a possible future for that site.
“We're not in a big hurry,” he said.