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Organizers of the Utah State Fairpark are looking at opening a new campus for Tracy Aviary on the west side of the fairgrounds, envisioning a conservation area where inner-city youths could camp or visitors could rent boats to float on the Jordan River.
It is part of a major Fairpark renovation that includes the construction of a new arena that will host concerts and events like the Days of '47 Rodeo, upgrades at the Grand Building, and a new building to house the Department of Agriculture and Food on the east side of the fairgrounds.
Larry Mullenax, executive director of the Fairpark, met with legislators on the budget subcommittee overseeing government buildings. He told the lawmakers that organizers discussed the potential west-side campus with Salt Lake City and Tracy Aviary officials, who are enthusiastic supporters of the idea.
They envision concession stands and kayak and canoe rentals, similar to what is done along the Michigan River in downtown Chicago, Mullenax said, and officials are traveling to Chicago next week to look at the operation.
Officials with the Fairpark and Department of Agriculture and Food seek $32 million to build a new headquarters for the department.
The current building, located a few blocks west, is run down and has a foul smell, according to Agriculture Commissioner Luann Adams.
If lawmakers decide to fund the construction, crews could break ground by early 2018. The lower floor of the building could be used for some fair events or other gatherings. The rest would be used for office space.
The new building would require demolition of three buildings, including the current administration building that was built in 1929 and is on the National Register of Historic Places, meaning the department will have to work with the State Historic Preservation Office to review how it will affect the historic properties.
Lawmakers expressed concern about potential parking problems, particularly while the fair is going on, but during those weeks, employees may have to park away from the campus, Adams said, and ride public transit to the building.
Mullenax also gave legislators an update on the status of the new rodeo arena. Demolition of the old arena was completed in August, and construction of the new arena started in late September. The building is scheduled to be completed in July and host the Days of '47 rodeo that month.
The project is ahead of schedule and under budget, Mullenax said.
Even without the arena, Mullenax said attendance at this year's fair was up by 4.7 percent over last year, with more than 250,000 tickets sold, and it set a new record for revenue for the event.
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