You may already know this, good readers, but it’s official. The Belle-Clair Fairgrounds & Expo Center in Belleville is on the real estate market. There’s a big sign out front advertising the sale. Details for the 22.5-acre property are available on the Barber Murphy website.
Included in the listing are the main hall building, the open air storage shed, the former Quality Rental building, the dirt racetrack, and multiple outbuildings. Not to mention the parking lot, the 8-foot perimeter fence, and all furniture, fixtures and equipment on the property.
The property is listed at $2.4 million. Some of you might be wondering what will become of the events that are held at the fairgrounds if and when it’s sold. I don’t know the answer to that question because I have been unable to reach the owners. Here’s what I did find out: Steve Zuber, one of the Barber Murphy brokers handling the sale, said in a brief phone call that there would be a due diligence period as ownership is transferred. This likely means that any events that are already scheduled at the time of a sale would be honored.
However, if the property is sold and redeveloped for a purpose other than an events venue, it seems that event organizers may have to make other plans moving forward. If you’re an event organizer who has been in touch with the Belle-Claire owners, please share what you have learned with me. The Belle-Clair Fairgrounds currently plays host to events such as the monthly flea market, craft shows and the Memorial Hospital Auxiliary Book Bazaar (my favorite!). Over the years, Belle-Clair has been the site for the St. Clair County Fair, the Ainad Shriners Circus, and exciting races on the Belle-Clair Speedway dirt track.
County property tax records show the fairgrounds are owned by BelleClair Fairgrounds, Inc. The Illinois Secretary of State website shows that BelleClair Fairgrounds, Inc., was established Thursday, Dec. 11, 1947. This tallies with an item in the Dec. 3, 1947, Belleville News-Democrat that stated the historical St. Clair County Fairgrounds was sold to a “new syndicate.”
According to the article, the group at the time was headed by Raymond Erlinger, who was an auto dealer as well as the previous owner of the former Ray’s Restaurant on Public Square. The article went on to state that Erlinger and his associates planned to “organize the Belleville Fairgrounds Park and that the corporation would use the grounds for an amusement center.” Erlinger’s plans included persuading around 20 local business leaders to participate in the venture. The group elected its first officers and directors on Wednesday, Dec. 17, 1947. Since then, hundreds – probably more like thousands – of events have been held at the fairgrounds.