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Study to explore 2 options for the future of Fairpark

SHARE Study to explore 2 options for the future of Fairpark

The annual Utah State Fair has been around for more than 100 years and while its existence isn't in doubt, its future direction and location could very well be determined in a state study now under way.

Donna Dahl, executive director of the Utah State Fairpark, said an appraisal of the park's property this month has valued its 64 acres at $18.8 million.

She, as well as the Utah State Fairpark Board, strongly opposes relocation of the Fairpark, operated for 99 years at its current site near 1000 W. North Temple. However, Gov. Mike Leavitt appointed an 11-member Fairpark study committee last spring to examine future options for the fair.

Two major possibilities are being explored: (1) Having a private company lease the Fairpark and use it, while still hosting the 10-day Utah State Fair there each September; (2) Sell the current site and then either buy land elsewhere or utilize other state land for the fair.

The Fairpark board and study committee will soon be sending out two different requests for proposals to cover those proposals. One "RFP" asks for businesses to make an offer on the property. The other requests proposals on other sites where the fair could operate once a year. Both offers stress the historical nature of some of the Fairpark's old buildings.

"There will always be a fair, but there may be a way to enhance it," said Richard Prows, a member of the Fairpark Board and also the governor's study committee.

He said a company coming in and taking over the Fairpark might be a great way to improve some of the deteriorating buildings and also give it some new facilities. Some preliminary discussions with a moviemaking company has shown some promise.

The study committee must give a report to the governor by November.

Leavitt isn't certain the state fair alone, plus some other events hosted there each year, comprise the optimum usage for the land.

Prows believes it would be a huge economic advantage for a company to not have to spend $18.8 million for land, if some sort of lease agreement could be worked out. A company would then evaluate which existing buildings it would keep, remodel or replace.

Dahl said one possible restriction that still needs to be explored is a title search for the Fairpark property. Some rumors have indicated the original deed might stipulate that the land revert to its original owners if it's ever sold by the state.

The state fair event pays for itself each year, but the state subsidizes the Fairpark about $300,000 annually and that isn't enough to keep ahead of the maintenance on its aging buildings or to add new facilities that would make the Fairpark more multi-purpose.

The Fairpark board has a challenge to pay its own way but believes it can't ever do that unless it has better and expanded facilities to attract regular events year-round.

E-MAIL: lynn@desnews.com