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Utah State Fairpark should keep current location, group says

(Chelsey Allder/Deseret News/File)


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SALT LAKE CITY — The Utah State Fairpark should remain at its current spot in northwest Salt Lake City, and the state should provide money to fix up its run-down facilities, according to a legislative task force.

The Fairpark Working Group told legislative leaders in a letter Monday that it considered moving the state fair and finding other uses for the 65-acre site, but it concluded it's in the state's best interest to keep it at the current location.

Keeping it in place would require a stronger financial commitment from the state and working with new partners, possibly including the Salt Lake County Fair and the Days of '47 Rodeo. Both are interested in holding their events at the Fairpark.

What's next?
The Legislative Management Committee, comprised of Republican and Democratic leaders, postponed discussion of the issue to Dec. 15.

Utah lawmakers cut funds for the Fairpark by 8.6 percent in 2011. While the state fair in September makes money, it is not enough to keep the park viable, and buildings have fallen into disrepair because of decades of neglect.

The current lease expires in 2017 and the Utah State Fair Corp. board says a new long-term lease with the state is critical to attract and retain events.

The Fairpark's business plan includes extending the duration of the 11-day state fair, more and bigger events during the rest of the year, a new exhibition center and multiuse stadium, and improvements to existing buildings and grounds.

Real Salt Lake owner Dell Loy Hansen pulled plans for an 8,000-seat stadium at the fairgrounds earlier this year due to legislative wrangling over his stipulation for a 40-year lease.

The state auditor's office review of other states' fairs showed that partnering with larger events or smaller county or regional fairs bolstered the fairs' success. The audit also showed that holding a state fair away from major population centers makes it less profitable.

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Dennis Romboy

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