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Lawmakers tour state fair grounds, weigh proposals for fair’s future

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Posted at 7:39 PM, Jul 31, 2014
and last updated 2014-07-31 21:39:22-04

SALT LAKE CITY -- There was more talk of just what will become of the Utah State Fair Park Thursday as the legislative sub-committee toured the grounds and heard proposals regarding what can be done to the aging lot.

The state has many different options it can choose from, according to the findings of a recent land use study. Ultimately, they’ll have to decide whether to invest millions in renovations and upgrades to keep the Utah State Fair in west Salt Lake, use the land for something else, or sell it altogether.

“It’s interesting to see the presentation, to see the reaction,” said Michael Steele, who is the fair’s executive director. “The legislative committee was very supportive of the fair. They want to help and it’s now figuring out the road map of where they want to take this.”

Steele took legislators on a tour of the state fairgrounds Thursday as they currently are, and a state hired planning design firm took them on a virtual tour of what the grounds could be.

“We think the fair park needs an influx of fiscal investment for those facilities, so they can be more successful,” said Kathy Wheadom, who is the president of CRS-- the design firm that conducted the study.

Options range from updating the current facility and finding a way to generate revenue year round or moving the fair and selling the property. Keeping the fair at the historical park could mean adding a soccer field for Real Salt Lake’s minor league team, the potential for the rodeo grounds to be expanded, a convention center, and other potential moneymakers.

“Those are all in the study, total those projects total at $47 million, so collectively we’re looking at just under $80 million of potential investment the legislature could put into the fair,” Wheadom said.

Ultimately, the decision is up to the state and will be discussed in the next legislative session, but the chair of the sub-committee had no problem expressing which option he was leaning toward.

“I personally would like to see it stay where it is, I already see the improvements on the buildings, it looks great,” said State Senator David Hinkins. “The concession stands and stuff look great, I really can’t see us moving this.”

The idea of a soccer field becoming the new home for Real Salt Lake’s minor league soccer team was presented earlier this month and remains an option being considered. The decision is the legislature’s to make, and that won’t happen until this year’s fair is over.