Huge changes are coming to the Utah State Fairpark and the west-side neighborhood named after it.
An ambitious new development plan was released Wednesday, and over the next 15 years, it will completely overhaul the 65-acre, state-owned site.
The master plan seeks to better connect the Fairpark to the surrounding neighborhood, as well as make better use of its existing space and buildings. The most obvious change: the development of the White Ballfield, which neighborhood residents know as the empty gravel lot just south of the Fairpark TRAX station, and an $11 million hotel.
The main goal? To get people to actually go to the Fairpark when the state fair isn’t happening.
The master plan notes that 100 years of construction at the Fairpark has resulted in a jumble of buildings. “This somewhat haphazard organization creates several challenges, the most important being an unclear perception by the public of what the Fairpark offers outside of the State Fair,” it reads.
But by designating a series of interconnected districts within the park that highlight the different reasons people go there (including recreation, farm animals, fair rides, and events and markets), developers appear to be envisioning a community hub that is actually part of the community.
Five takeaways from the 215-page master plan:
1. Will there be new housing?
Yes. Part of the development of the White Ballfield District will include the construction of about 368 units, plus office space, retail and restaurants.
2. Will the historic barns be torn down?
No. Now, the animal barns are used during the Utah State Fair for hanging out with goats, sheep and other animals. But under the master plan, these buildings would be renovated, in order to house the International Market, indoor and outdoor entertainment venues, microbreweries or distilleries, a beer garden, restaurants and more.
3. Will the Utah State Fairpark stay the same size?
Yes. Executive Director Larry Mullenax told The Salt Lake Tribune on Wednesday that “none of the changes extend beyond our current borders.”
4. What are some of the things that will be added?
A zip line and rope course above the existing parking lot. A permanent Ferris wheel. An exposition hall. The hotel. New livestock barns. Removable shade structures. A climbing wall and more.
5. What are some of the things that will be changing?
Instead of getting off at the Fairpark TRAX stop and feeling like you’re walking into the park through a back door, a new “grand entrance” is going to be built at that spot.
A new promenade also will connect the Fairpark and the Jordan River, so visitors don’t have to go a long way around to access the riverside Constitution Park. Other slated improvements to the Jordan River area include a boat launch point, a sloped lawn, terraced seating for events, and improvements to the river bottom and riverfront areas.
An effort called “Greening the Park” aims to “limit the heat island effect and create a more inviting and park-like experience” by planting more trees and landscaping, the plan states.
The Driver License Division will be removed and relocated, and a few other buildings along 1000 West will be removed altogether.
Some of these project components come with hefty price tags. The Exhibition Hall is estimated to cost more than $46 million. The White Ballfield District mixed-use development will cost more than $76 million.
More than an estimated $1 million will be spent on both parking improvements and Jordan River improvements. More than $300K will be set aside for the “Greening the Park” effort. More than $7M will be spent on the Adventure District, to be built around the existing Vans skatepark.
The project is estimated to take 15 years, according to the plan, but the Fairpark won’t be shut down completely all that time. Instead, the overhaul will be done in stages. The projected end date is 2036.
With all these changes planned for the neighborhood, “the Fairpark submarket is poised to transform similar to other areas, like the Granary District,” the plan states.
Correction: May 18, 5:15 p.m. • This story has been updated to reflect that the upcoming improvements and changes to the Utah State Fairpark will take place within the site’s current borders.