Simplified: The Minnehaha County Commission on Tuesday unanimously voted to take legal action to figure out if there's a way around the restrictions on what the county can do with the W. H. Lyon Fairgrounds. Essentially, the goal is a "clean title," as Commissioner Gerald Beninga put it.

Why it matters

  • When Winona Axtell Lyon donated the nearly 50-acre plot of land in 1938, the gift came with lots of strings attached – including a stipulation that if the land isn't used for the fair, its ownership goes back to Lyons's heirs.
  • That's posing a problem for the county as it tries to figure out what to do with aging fairground facilities, not enough money to replace them and even potential buyers of the property.
  • It's possible, though, that a 2005 state law could be the answer to getting around some of the restrictions placed on the original gift of the land if the county can prove those restrictions are "impossible or impractical," according to Eric Bogue, chief civil deputy state's attorney for the county.
"It's a great start for us to take ownership of this property and do what’s right for the community," Commissioner Dean Karsky said.

How did we get here?

The county convened a task force in early 2022 to study the future of the fairgrounds.

What happens next?

The vote Tuesday was the first step the commission has taken in following up on the task force recommendations, which were presented in May.

Next up? It'll likely be up to the courts to decide what the county can do to try to get out of restrictions on the fairgrounds land.