City, State Fair to Replace Fair Park Livestock Arena With Fancy "Mini-Convention Center"

Categories: Park and Rec
NewFairParkLivestockArena.jpg
Click here to see more of Good, Fulton & Farrell's renderings for the new Fair Park Livestock Center.
The reason I called Park and Rec's second-in-command Willis Winters the other day wasn't about downtown parks. Rather, I was curious about an $869,465 item on the Park Board's agenda for today: "Consider a professional services contract with Good, Fulton & Farrell Architects for schematic design through construction administration services for a new livestock arena at Fair Park located at 1419 South Washington Avenue."

Turns out, this is about much, much more than just a new livestock arena. Says Winters, the city and the State Fair of Texas are partnering on a $14-million-ish replacement facility -- the Fair Park Livestock Center -- that would double as a sort of "mini-convention center," as he describes it, a place for livestock and people. People, mostly.

Says Winters, the livestock arena's become "decrepit" and is in desperate need of replacing. But rather than just build a modern indoor sales arena where folks can auction off their blue-ribbon steers during the State Fair, they've decided to go all-out with a facility that would serve as a conference center, complete with an upstairs banquet hall, dining facilities and a catering kitchen. The city will cover around $4.5 million of the cost, using money from the 2006 bond program. "And the State Fair will be raising funds privately for the remainder," says Winters, "somewhere around $9, $10 million."

"It's a multipurpose building that can be used for lectures, meetings and events, in addition to livestock auctions," says Winters. "And upstairs would be a small convention facility, like at hotel. The Fair Park Master Plan anticipated the replacement of this facility. Obviously we want to be sensitive to the historic context of the buildings that surround it, like the Swine Building, which is in decrepit condition and needs to be restored but is still a great building, and the barn where the DPD's mounted unit is. The building design ties into the architecture that surrounds it."

Winters, an architect and historian who literally wrote the book on Fair Park, says the new building will be "done in the George Dahl style," referring, of course, to the man who gave Fair Park its makeover for the 1936 Texas Centennial Exposition.

"That was very important -- that it fit into the Fair Park context and be multipurpose. The State Fair will only use it during the fair, but we want to use it as an income-generating facility."

Today's vote concerns the design contract; the city wants Good, Fulton & Farrell to spend 2012 designing the building, so construction can begin following the State Fair in the fall of 2013. "We hope to finish it by the fair 2014," Winter says.

"The State Fair has long needed a new sales arena, period," he says when asked why this, why now. "The one they have there is functionally obsolete, and you want to ring in ranchers and businessmen to bid $100,000 for a grand-champion steer. They needed greatly upgraded facilities to compete with Houston and Fort Worth and San Antonio. And we wanted to being something in that does more than serve the fair for one month each year. The site was dictated by the available land. It's on the back edge, but we'll figure out a way to get people there for the remainder of the yer. Another thing going in there is a livestock museum that talks about the history of the State Fair. This will put the State Fair on a level platform to compete with other livestock shows."

Winters says the reason the city's chipping in is so Errol McKoy and the State Fair of Texas can keep raising money for the so-called Summer Place Park they hope to get up and running in 2013 -- you know, that Six Flags competitor McKoy's been talking about since '09.

"The State Fair is putting itself in a financial position to fund and building the summer midway by 2013," he explains. "And putting in city funding helps the fair get into a position where they can make that happen, which we we feel is important."
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30 comments
jim
jim

How about cutting Errol's and his top five assistants' compensation package to a reasonable level for 2 - 3 months of work each year back from the $200,000 to $800,000 they take home.  That would greatly help pay the debt on all the improvements.  In the alternative they could use the money to reduce the prices charged for the Fair.

Mister_Mean
Mister_Mean

We need convention centers on every corner just like Starbucks.

yeahIsaidthat
yeahIsaidthat

WTF! Most Dallas streets could use that 2006 bond money. Don't give me that 'we can't move it from here to there BS"  Mary already does what she GD pleases unless she gets busted at it.She needs to be forced to move that money over to streets.

BH
BH

Let's build a nice hotel down there too while we're at it.....seriously.  I would imagine there are TONS of folks who would appreciate having a decent hotel inside Fair Park.  Nothing as grand as the Omni, but 200-300 rooms would be a HUGE asset to Fair Park.  Throw in some interesting architecture that reflects the Art Deco presence that already exists.  Omni has already proved to be a HUGE success....I've heard it's booked out as far as 36 months.

MattL1
MattL1

I guess if the thing needs to be replaced anyway, we might as well do it properly.  I don't have a problem with what I see in the renderings.

Speaking of renderings, can we get a blog that's completely dedicated to them?  I can't get enough.

Guest
Guest

Finally, we will be a mini-world class city.

Also, presumably that thing is going to need a mini-hotel at some point in the future, too.

Chris Danger
Chris Danger

 I've always wondered why these barns have never been replaced, as they've been falling apart for years. Its why Amon Carter has always been the superior facility in the livestock game over the ensuing decades. Hopefully this building will be built properly and w/o any "south dallas" interactions...

Lee
Lee

I have often wondered about why Fair Park is not aggressively marketed as convention space. Will this be marketed by the Dallas Convention and Visitors Bureau? Will the Park Department insist on $15 to park?

dallasmay
dallasmay

How much convention space does the Metroplex need? I really think we have enough.  Let's make a list of all of the Publicly Owned Convention Centers in the Metroplex:DallasFt. WorthArlingtonIrvingGrand PrairieMesquiteRichardsonPlano AllenGrapevineDFWHurstFrisco

(Those are the ones I can think of off of the top of my head. Any others?) 

sizzler
sizzler

they should really overhaul the infrastructure on that side of the park along with this. i.e. create real entrances and connect adjacent neighborhood through streets to the foot of the park. as is its a total tangle over there

JM
JM

So it makes sense to spend 14 million so some businessman in his once a year "Howdy, I'm a cowboy" duds will spend 100 grand on some kid's steer?  Why not just set up a trust fund and give the kids scholarships? Dallas will never compete with Fort Worth on this.

LakeWWWooder
LakeWWWooder

Too bad we can't transfer Ocean Drive  and its promenande of small Art Deco hotels from Miami Beach to Haskell.  Or - maybe we could do something like that..

Downtown_worker
Downtown_worker

It could be something as small as the Belmont, which only has about 65 rooms. Seriously, there should be a hotel inside the park with a full bar, overlooking the fairgrounds, that doesn't accept coupons.

Downtown_worker
Downtown_worker

All joking aside, I would like to see a Fair Park hotel. 

Downtown_worker
Downtown_worker

No, the DCVB will insist that we need a city-owned hotel attached to that building as well. BAM! :)

Ed D.
Ed D.

They're all different sizes and serve different needs. The Richardson Civic Center is small plus it doubles as City Hall and a Municipal Building. The Plano Centre seems to stay pretty busy but I wish it had an attached hotel. (No, seriously, and a DART rail connection, too.)

LakeWWWooder
LakeWWWooder

However most of those are very generic while Fair Park is a national historic landmark and the largest collection of Art Deco exhibition buildings in the world.  Where would you rather go for a convention?

Montemalone
Montemalone

But the other 11 months of the year, the space can be leased out. It's on the rail line that goes downtown, connecting to the municipal hotel.

Downtown_worker
Downtown_worker

If Fort Worth had a place that was halfway as awesome as Fair Park, I would agree with you.

dallasmay
dallasmay

I don't think it would work. Fair Park serves a much more local crowd. I wouldn't be surprised if 90%+ of the attendees of fair park at any event, save the Football games, lived with in 50 miles of the park. There just isn't much of a need for a Hotel because it's a local attraction. Which is fine. (This is also why there aren't a huge number of hotels popping up around Cowboy's Stadium. It's primarily a local attraction as well, save for two or three games a year.)

But hey, if you wanted to risk your own money and build one, knock yourself out. 

Guest
Guest

I don't have any problem with a PRIVATELY FUNDED AND OWNED hotel at or near Fair Park, either.

dallasmay
dallasmay

I honestly don't know. That certainly makes for an interesting attraction, and the Irving and Arlington Convention Center's would certainly have even stiffer competition for the mid-sized meeting market. But that's exactly my point. That market seems pretty saturated as it is. Besides small churches that can't afford their own building and the occasional wedding, I just don't know how much these building's get used. I would certainly not be surprised if most were municipal white elephants. 

(Three side notes: 1. The Dallas Convention Center really shouldn't be included in the list. It competes in a different market since it is so much larger than any of the other city's or private convention centers, even Ft. Worth. 2. It is nice that this Convention Center would have at least one built in tenant for one month every year. I imagine that is something that most of the other cities don't have the luxury of.3. I didn't include the Privately owned convention space. It would also be competing against the likes of the Gaylord Texan, for example, AND the new fancy City-Owned Omni Dallas hotel itself has a whole floor dedicated to such space.)

DuckDuckGoose
DuckDuckGoose

Someplace I can walk to my car without getting shot.

ScottsMerkin
ScottsMerkin

Well Fort Worth at least uses its assets, as opposed to letting them sit dormant for 300 days a year

Oak Cliff Clavin
Oak Cliff Clavin

Yea, really sucks over there in Ft. Worth, what with the world-class museums and all the restaurants and bars truly within walking distance.  Ft. Worth definitely lacks that true grittiness the conventioneer from Des Moines is in search of...

dallasmay
dallasmay

Well, if you are shopping for one of those places, you are probably in a different market segment that this is gearing towards.

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