Discussion of possible new location for Utah State Fair begins

Posted at 10:51 PM, May 14, 2014

SALT LAKE CITY -- Should the Utah State Fair stay or go?

It's become a battle over money and what the community wants. Lawmakers hope to meet somewhere in the middle.

Wednesday night marked the first public meeting on the issue at the Rose Park Community Center. This all began nearly two months ago when an audit revealed the State Fair cost taxpayers too much money. Now the legislature wants to figure out if they should keep it at its current location or move it somewhere else.

"The question really is do we want to keep a fair, how can we make the fair financially successful or are there other options for land use potentially development or other things that could happen at the fair park site," said Kathy Wheadon, the President of CRSA, a Salt Lake City Architectural and Planning firm hired by the Utah legislature to make a recommendation: should the State Fair stay or go?

A state audit showed the fair cost taxpayers nearly $7 million since 1995, and attendance is at an all-time low compared to other western states.

"This evening is an opportunity for residents to come out, offer some feedback to the state," said Maria Garciaz, Executive Director with Neighbor Works Salt Lake.

What the community wants will have weight with lawmakers, but they also want to know how they can make use of the 64 acres, which goes unused most of the year.

Salt Lake City Councilman Kyle LaMalfa said the fair has become a fixture in the community.

"It's really an interesting nexus of urban and rural that comes together every year for the state fair and we hope that through this planning process, they'll take the support of the community, the advice of the community to keep the state fair here in Salt Lake City," the councilman said.

"The state fair has a great emotional attachment for this community, so I think a lot of people want this state fair to stay here," Garciaz said.

The State is obligated to hold a state fair by law, but it's not obligated to hold it at its current location so that means they could move it anywhere.

No suggestions have been thrown out so far. There's a 90-day public comment period. The firm the state hired has three months to make a recommendation to the legislature.