This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2016, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.
A years-long battle over whether to keep the Utah State Fairpark in Salt Lake City and how to run it appears to be over.
Sen. Kevin Van Tassell, R-Vernal, presented a bill Monday that would keep the fairgrounds at its present spot in Salt Lake City, continue to have it run by the Utah State Fairpark Corp., but give the Legislature more oversight.
The Senate Natural Resources, Agriculture and Environment Committee endorsed SB179 on a unanimous vote and sent it to the full Senate.
Van Tassell led a working group of legislators and others that studied for a year what to do with the fairgrounds, resulting in the bill.
"As we worked through it this summer, it was agreed that the state fair is a valuable jewel" and should stay where it is, he said, adding that it is as important to Salt Lake City "as Central Park is to New York City."
He said his working group found that the community "loves the state fair, and they want it maintained there, and want to see it become even bigger than it is and add events [during the rest of the year] that will ensure a success for years to come."
Some members of the Legislature had pushed to move the Fairpark, and questioned if it is run well because of annual deficits and aging buildings in need of repair.
Although the Legislature previously approved entering a 50-year contract with the Fairpark corporation to manage the fairgrounds, it was never signed amid ongoing controversy.
Last year, that ended up killing a proposal by Real Salt Lake to build a soccer stadium there for its minor-league Monarchs a facility which could have been used for rodeo and other events. RSL said it needed a long-term contract to proceed, but bickering over the fair's future delayed that until the team decided to move on.
Van Tassell said his bill simply would appoint the Fairpark corporation to run the park, without need of a new lease, "until we decide to do something different" by passing another law.
It allows the corporation to enter into any leases it chooses, for terms of less than 10 years, to attract more events and tenants at the Fairpark. Van Tassell notes that the fair itself makes money, but the Fairpark sits largely vacant for the rest of the year and the Fairpark Corp. is working to attract more events to raise more money.
For any lease of more than 10 years, approval of the Legislature and the state building board are required.
The bill also changes who is on the Fairpark Corp.'s board to allow the Senate president, House speaker, governor, Salt Lake City and County mayors and the Days of '47 to appoint some members. Van Tassell said that helps the Legislature to have a more direct say in its operations.
He said the corporation has developed a 25-year plan on how to attract more events and revenues to reduce and eliminate deficits, and to improve maintenance of facilities.
In separate action, supporters of the Fairpark have sought $3 million as a state contribution for a $5 million to $10 million new multi-purpose arena at the fairgrounds, which could house rodeos, concerts and other events. Van Tassell said it is envisioned as a home for the Days of '47 rodeo.
Also, $3 million was requested to study possibly constructing a new building to house the State Department of Agriculture and Food at the fairgrounds, or across the street at the White ballpark.
Proposals have called for the agriculture department possibly sharing a new expo center at the fairgrounds to help attract more events there at times besides the fair. If built at White ballpark, it might also include a parking facility that could help with parking for events at the fairgrounds.