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Op-ed: Improve Fairpark and keep state fair on North Temple

By Roger L. Beattie and Michael J. Steele

First Published Jun 06 2014 04:52 pm • Last Updated Jun 06 2014 04:52 pm

The editorial published May 23 by the Salt Lake Tribune made a conclusion we disagree with; the editorial states "But the fair needs a new home, preferably one it can share with other functions ..." We have a home and do share it with other functions throughout the year. The Utah State Fair’s home for over 110 years is the ideal location for the annual September event. The fair’s location in the heart of our capital city on North Temple makes it the best location one could place the state fair.

In reviewing the history of the Fairpark, the conclusion is easily made that the grounds have stagnated and fallen into disrepair over the past 30 years. The shell is here, but there has not been investment in the core of the property by the state in several decades. The Fairpark has had buildings condemned, torn down or never finished by the state. However, even with all those challenges, the property is ripe for investment to showcase Utah’s largest single event and myriad other events throughout the year.

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People are claiming that "there is a better use for this property." Their meaning is clear: Let us develop on the property and make a mountain of profits. The Utah State Fair and grounds have provided the citizens of Utah over 110 years of tradition, celebration, history, agricultural excellence and memories for Utah’s residents. No group can place a price tag on the fair’s history and contributions to the culture of our state. Opponents to the fair will do all they can to minimize the future potential of the fair and grounds. Those wishing to tear down the fairgrounds will compare the issue to relocation plans of the state prison in Draper. Business leaders angling to redevelop this property are simply looking for profitable deals on state-owned land and not concerned about the cultural loss.

To tear down, give up and quit is the easy path to take with the Utah State Fair and the Fairpark. Throwing away more than a century of history, great exhibitions and the roots an organization has built should be absolutely denied. The history of our citizens and our culture in Utah is one of persevering, overcoming obstacles, and preserving our cultural heritage.

Benjamin Franklin said it best: "Those who govern, having much business on their hands, do not generally like to take the trouble of considering and carrying into execution new projects. The best public measures are therefore seldom adopted from previous wisdom, but forced by the occasion."

It is time to invest in your state fair and fairgrounds. The Utah State Fair Corporation has been working on enacting a 25-year master plan, developed to take the Fairpark into the future and ensure the Utah State Fair remains a vital part of Utah’s culture for generations to come. This investment should take the form of a new exposition building, finishing the rodeo grounds (that have never been completed), and adding another tenant-related activity that will have regular annual events on the property. The Fairpark’s board of directors and staff are moving forward with improving the Fairpark and preserving the Utah State Fair.

Roger L. Beattie is chairman of the board of Utah State Fair Corp. Michael J. Steele is executive director and CEO of Utah State Fair Corp.

Copyright 2014 The Salt Lake Tribune. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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