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Utah Legislature: Utah State Fair seeks to extend lease of grounds

SALT LAKE CITY — The Utah State Fair Corporation wants to extend its lease of the State Fairpark grounds an additional 43 years, to enhance its opportunities for bonding and creating private partnerships.

HB406, proposed this week in the Utah State Legislature, would extend the Fair Corporation's lease to June 30, 2060, and would take effect July 1, 2010. Currently, the Fairpark lease expires June 30, 2017. The bill is sponsored by James R. Gowans, D-Tooele, of the House of Representatives.

"We need to do more with the property," Judy Duncombe, acting general manager of the Utah State Fairpark, said. "For partnerships or bonding, we need more than seven years on the lease."

She said while the State Fair itself is doing well with both attendance and revenue, Fairpark, a non-profit corporation that runs the grounds, needs more year-round events and even some private partnership use of its facilities to have the funds necessary to continue to renovate and maintain its historic buildings.

Some of the park's buildings are more than a century old, and maintaining them is expensive.

Under the bill, the "White Ball Field" portion of Fairpark property, located to the south across North Temple, would revert back to ownership of the Utah Division of Facilities Construction and Management Leasing on June 30, 2017.

"That will mean a significant revenue loss," Duncombe said, in the amount of about $200,000 a year. She said that mostly vacant land is used for about half-a-dozen events a year at the Fairpark. It serves for overflow parking at the State Fair, and the circus uses it when in town.

She hopes that the eventual extension of the TRAX line along North Temple to the Salt Lake International Airport will compensate for the loss of parking space.

"We need to become more creative in uses for the Fairpark," Duncombe said.

She also said the Fairpark is more well used than people realize, with many weddings and private events held there each year. But she said it still needs more events and revenue.

In 2002, the Fair Park corporation hoped that a mini-Universal Studios Hollywood-type studio would locate there, with a 40 year lease. However, that didn't materialize.

Studies have been done about the feasibility of relocating the Fairpark elsewhere, but that was determined to be too costly.

e-mail: lynn@desnews.com