One of Olmsted County’s bonding priorities is to seek funding from the Minnesota legislature to further enhance Graham Park. Graham Park has served southeast Minnesota as a community asset for more than 100 years for agriculture, community events, entertainment, and youth athletics.
Specifically, funding from the state would help the county create an exhibition center and a farmers market pavilion, as well as a program support plaza. These enhancements would serve important regional and community needs and drive year-round activity.
Expected benefits include:
- Ability to host additional events and activities.
- Enhance entertainment opportunities and quality of life in the region.
- Generate new tourism to the region.
- Positive economic impacts.
A new exhibition center would replace the dairy and horse barns and become the primary dirt floor event venue at Graham Park.
With 30,000 square feet of exhibit space, there is no other facility in the Rochester area at this time that can offer this type of venue for business, agriculture, and recreational events. The exhibition center would meet the needs of equestrian and animal agriculture with its 150’ x 250’ main show ring with seating for up to 1,500 spectators, a 125’ x 200’ warm-up ring, and space for 250 portable stalls.
Farmers market pavilion
A 50,000 square-foot covered pavilion would support the Rochester Farmers Market through seasonal and inclement weather. The market currently serves approximately 1,000 - 3,000 people weekly and provides a direct farm to market venue for farmers from within a 50 mile radius of Rochester.
Conceptual image above from Legacy Building Solutions
Program support plaza
A program support plaza would provide a flexible space that can be configured to serve the needs of a variety of events at the exhibition center, including outdoor exhibition space, overflow parking, and equestrian camping. It can also transition to provide park programming with space for seasonal events or displays.
Enhanced Graham Park facilities are projected to increase the total annual economic benefit from $5.5 million to nearly $13.7 million annually. It also means Graham Park will be used 200 more days out of the year supporting an additional 50 unique events.
Graham Park is managed by Olmsted County with the Rochester Park & Recreation Department managing the Graham Arenas. It features approximately 147,000 square feet of event space across 11 facilities.
The Arenas Park is available for dry floor events year-round and for ice skating events from October through June. Dry floor events can include trade shows, private celebrations, concerts, youth and adult hockey games and tournaments, equestrian shows, and bull riding. The historic grandstand and track area and largely used for horse and car shows, live entertainment, tractor pulls, and other competitions.
Graham Park also hosts the annual Olmsted County Fair, an event first held on this land in 1919. Held in late July, the Fair is an opportunity to exhibit and compete in agricultural products, livestock, crafts and handiwork, and food, attracting an estimated 200,000 visitors annually. The Fair has become a significant local cultural event and summer staple for those in the community as well as in the broader region.
Graham Park stats
- City/State: Rochester, MN
- Owner: Olmsted County
- Operator: Olmsted County (with Rochester Park & Recreation Department operating Graham Arenas under agreement)
- Year built: 1960
- Acreage: 57 acres
- Parking: 299 spots
- Exhibit space: 147,000 square feet
- Meeting space: 27,700 square feet
- Largest contiguous space: 28,000 feet
- Largest arena concert capacity: 1,600 maximum capacity
- Grandstand: 2,500 bleacher seats
- Stalls: 250 permanent stalls; 1,250 temporary stalls
- RV spaces: 60 RV hook-ups