Legislature to Decide Future of Utah State Fairpark
CORRECTION: A previous version of this story erroneously reported that the State Fair Corporation did not receive any state subsidies. In fact, the corporation received its usual annual appropriation of $675,00 plus an additional $600,000. The legislature decided last year to stop the automatic annual appropriation. Now, Fairpark officials must ask for it each year. The story has been updated. We regret the error.
The future of the troubled Utah State Fairpark will likely be decided this legislative session. On Friday, lawmakers discussed a proposal to build a new $23 million soccer stadium there.
Utah State Fair Corporation board chair Roger Beattie told lawmakers that he could foresee a day when the Fairpark could operate without any taxpayer dollars. Real Salt Lake owner Dell Loy Hansen has offered to build a sports facility housing a minor league team, and Beattie estimates the stadium would bring in revenue of more than 3 million dollars per year. He says, with this deal, the park could finally become self-sufficient.
“We stand at a threshold to a brighter future for the Fairpark, however as well, what we believe is a dangerous precipice if we fail to act,” Beattie says. “So we would appreciate very much your support.”
The State Fair Corporation is requesting $675,000 to keep the park running, plus a $100,000 study to provide a design and price quote to finish the rodeo grounds. And, they want the legislature to approve a new long-term lease. The current lease expires in 2017 and the state has not renewed it because of uncertainty. Democratic Senator Jim Dabakis of Salt Lake City says the status quo is unacceptable.
“The property has deteriorated, where it’s condemned, where we’re not getting funding,” Dabakis says. “This is our moment, this is the year, either we’re going to keep a state fair, we’re going to fund it, we’re going to approve a plan and get the lease signed, or we’re going to say you know what, it’s over!”
Lawmakers assigned a subcommittee to review the Fairpark proposal in detail. Roger Beattie told KUER that RSL has set a deadline to close the deal on the new facility by April 23rd. That deal depends on what lawmakers decide this session.