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Utahns want fair to stay put

67% in poll think historic Fairpark is the right location

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Two-thirds of Utahns believe the Utah State Fairpark should probably remain at its current location near 1000 W. North Temple.

According to a new Deseret News-KSL poll conducted by Dan Jones & Associates, 67 percent of the 400 persons polled said the fair should definitely or probably stay where it is, while 14 percent said it should move.

Fifteen percent of those polled said they don't know, and 3 percent indicated "it depends."

The poll conducted last week has an error margin of plus or minus 5 percent.

"It's what we expected," Donna Dahl, State Fairpark executive director, said. "The people of the state love this place."

However, Gov. Mike Leavitt has appointed an 11-member committee to study the feasibility of moving the Fairpark. The board is composed of agricultural experts, a Fairpark board member and other community members.

Richard Prows, Fairpark board member and also chairman of the governor's study committee, said the poll would be among the data the board is collecting.

"We're not surprised by the results," he said.

When the committee first met last spring, Leavitt said the state fair is a "treasure and it needs to be protected, preserved and enhanced."

He said a possible relocation of the fair has been discussed before, but non-government proposals have never been investigated. He believes the value of the state fair isn't in its land, but in its history.

The new committee was created under HB253, passed last winter, and is obligated to submit recommendations to the Legislature by Nov. 30.

The Utah State Fairpark has been at its current 64-acre location for 99 years and attracts 300,000 people to the 11-day state fair each summer. This year's fair continues through Sunday, Sept. 16.

Two possibilities being explored by the study committee are: leasing the Fairpark to a private company, while still hosting the 11-day Utah State Fair there each September; or selling the current site (recently appraised for $18.8 million) and then either buying land elsewhere or utilizing other state land for the fair.

The state fair pays for itself, but the state subsidizes the Fairpark by about $300,000 annually. And that isn't enough to keep ahead of restoration and maintenance of some of the aging buildings, some of which are on historical registers.

Dahl said two studies have already concluded it isn't wise to move the fair's location.

The Utah State Fairpark board of directors said it opposes relocation of the state fair and believes the Fairpark is much more than just a home for Utah's largest annual event. It also hosts an eclectic mix of everything from concerts and trade-related events to the Scout-O-Rama and the Utah Arts Festival.

E-MAIL: lynn@desnews.com