Blaming City, Museum of Automotive History Pulls Out of Fair Park. City Says: Not Its Fault.

Categories: Park and Rec
stephenpage1.jpg
Photo by Danny Fulgencio
Stephen Page in March 2011, when he and the city were hoping the Texas Museum of Automotive History were heading for a long-term commitment
One year ago, or close enough, Stephen Page gave us a tour of his Texas Museum of Automotive History in Grand Place at Fair Park -- its temporary home, we were told, but an appropriate one, given the space's estimable past as the site where the Ford Motor Co. had its exhibit during the Texas Centennial Exposition in 1936. Last March, Page and city officials said they hoped the car museum would drive into its new space, the Museum of Nature & Science, once it decamped for its new digs on Woodall Rodgers. But, no, says Page tonight. That's not going to happen. As of July, he says, the Texas Museum of Automotive History will be history.

"Despite our best efforts, the City did not honor its promise to legally acknowledge that we were the replacement tenants for the Science Museum Building," he writes in an email that accompanies the press release that follows. "That promise was the basis for our substantial and successful effort to establish the Texas Museum of Automotive History in Fair Park. As provided for in our current lease, we will vacate the Grand Place Building to accommodate the State Fair on July 31st, 2012. In the interim period, we will operate the Museum."

Daniel Huerta, executive general manager of Fair Park, says tonight that he and Park and Recreation Director Paul Dyer met with Page last week about the move to the Museum of Nature & Science. Says Huerta, Page has long been itching to get the city to commit, on paper, to letting the automotive museum take over the Museum of Nature & Science. But Huerta says Park and Rec's worried about whether that's even doable, given the fact Page's exhibit's "only drew 30,000 people this year."

"We want to make sure what goes in there is good for the park," Huerta tells Unfair Park. "We love having the museum, but we wanted to know: How will you staff a building that size? Especially given the attendance. Those are the things we wanted him to address in the business plan and any future growth plan. We wanted a business plan to show they are indeed serious and a viable organization and a long-term fit for the building. That's where we left it. And he said, 'I'm just gonna shut it down.'"

Huerta says Page "always knew" the museum was on a short-term lease, and that Fair Park didn't have any permanent facilities available. "And they were amenable to that," Huerta says, "since they could drive the cars in and out. But he doesn't want to do that. But there's another faction within that organization that wants to stay in Grand Place and grow it slowly." Matter of fact, Huerta and Dyler refer several times to "internal strife" and "splinter factions" within the museum's 501(c)(3), and hints a spin-off group within the TMAH may want to reopen a car museum in the same space after this year's State Fair of Texas.

Dyer reminds tonight that the museum didn't pay rent during its run there. The city viewed it as "a potential attraction," he says, but wanted to make sure it was a viable one too.

"And they did a great job, but Stephen wanted a long-term commitment, and we couldn't give it to him," says the head of Park and Rec. "We haven't gotten away from our commitment to the science museum yet: As long as they're in the building, they have the building. We want viable, dynamic attractions at Fair Park, and this museum has the chance to do that if it has the right funding. But keep in mind, the science museum's also an old building that needs a lot of renovation, and I'm not sure they have that level of funding to deal with that."

Well, then -- what about The Women's Museum, which is now in need of a tenant? Seems that'd be the perfect spot, given its wide-open floor plan.

"They didn't request that space," Dyer says. "They wanted to establish a charter mechanics school, and thought the science museum would be a better fit for that. We mentioned that building, but it never did pique their interest." (Incidentally, Dyer says at least two organizations are eying The Women's Museum.)

I did talk to Page a little while ago, and he calls this "a very sad state of affairs." But he would prefer the scathing press release he sent tonight speak for itself, for now, so it does below. And in it, Page makes a point that's not entirely unfamiliar:
The City's requirement that tenants vacate the majority of the buildings in Fair Park during the State Fair is the principal reason for Fair Park's ongoing decline.

We strongly believe that for Fair Park to fulfill its destiny and become a viable, commercially successful, cultural and social center, the buildings that comprise Fair Park need to be leased year round to permanent tenants. The State Fair of Texas should operate its vendor attractions from temporary buildings and air conditioned tents.

We recommend that the City closely examine San Diego's Balboa Park and learn from their experiences that transformed a 1,400 acre area with nearly identical issues to Fair Park, into a thriving, integral part of the San Diego's recreational and cultural fabric.
Seems the car museum will be out of Fair Park before the train museum.
The Texas Museum of Automotive History (TMAH) to close in Fair Park, Dallas, Texas

"It is with great sadness that I announce that the Texas Museum of Automotive History will close in Fair Park," states Stephen Page, Chairman & CEO, Texas Museum of Automotive History. "We are leaving Fair Park at the end of our current lease period in July because the Park Board and the City have failed to provide written confirmation that the Texas Museum of Automotive History is the replacement tenant for the Science Museum Building."

At the start of the Texas Museum of Automotive History's development journey in 2009, we were assured by the Park Board that if we successfully opened and operated the Texas Museum of Automotive History in a temporary building in Fair Park (The Grand Place Building) for three years, the City would provide us with written confirmation that we were the replacement tenant for the Museum of Nature and Science's Science Museum Building (upon their relocation to their new building in downtown Dallas, Q1, 2013).

Without the City's legally binding "permanent building" commitment, we feel it is no longer appropriate to raise funds to operate the Museum and prepare for the move into a permanent Fair Park location.

This permanent building assurance given to us by the Park Board in 2009 was the basis of long hours, sweat equity and the commitment of significant personal and corporate financial resources that were made to successfully establish and operate the Texas Museum of Automotive History in Fair Park.

Since 2009, we have made significant progress. Our accomplishments include:

- Raised private donations to successfully build, open (November 20th, 2010) and operate the Museum.
- Achieved 501(c)3 status with the IRS.
- United the DFW and Texas Collector Car community and coordinated the display of 100+ cars valued at $30+ million.
- Achieved 30,000+ visitors to the Museum in our first full year of operation (2011).
- Built a world-class museum display, showcasing the inter-development of race cars and commercial cars from 1901 (when racing started in Fair Park) to 1984, (when Fair Park staged the 1984 F1 Grand Prix).
- Built a world-class Social Media presence that enhanced the visibility of Fair Park and the City of Dallas globally
- Achieved recognition by the DFW Chapter of Meeting Planners International as the 2nd best place in DFW to stage a corporate event, (Dallas Cowboys Stadium was 1st). - Developed a Texas Museum of Automotive History based Restoration Factory Program (based on the highly successful First Tee Program - www.thefirsttee.org) to teach life and work skills to at risk young men and women, 15-18.
- Identified 400 at-risk young men and women within seven DISD "Automotive Programs" that would benefit from participation in a fully developed Texas Museum of Automotive History based Restoration Factory Program, staged in the existing Science Museum Building Charter School facility.
- Last, we sourced a $20+ million (replacement cost) Centrifuge that would have provided a world-class interactive experience for Texas Museum of Automotive History visitors in the Science Museum Building had we been allowed to assume tenancy of the Science Museum Building. This system previously generated $1+ million annually for its operators.

As stated multiple times in correspondence to Mayor Mike Rawlings, Park Board Director Paul Dyer and in meetings with Park Board and City officials during the last twelve months, without a long term Fair Park building commitment for the Texas Museum of Automotive History from the City, we are unable to raise private donations from corporations and individuals, vital to the ongoing success of the Museum.

Unfortunately, since his election, Mayor Rawlings has refused to meet with us to discuss the issuance of a letter from the City, stating that the Texas Museum of Automotive History is the replacement tenant (subject to Board Development and Fundraising conditions) for the Science Museum Building when it is vacated in Q1, 2013.

Our current six month renewable Grand Place Building lease requires that we vacate the Grand Place Building to accommodate the State Fair, August to October each year. This mandatory requirement to abandon our business premises for three months each year kills the Museum's Event Business and our community awareness momentum.

The City's requirement that tenants vacate the majority of the buildings in Fair Park during the State Fair is the principal reason for Fair Park's ongoing decline.

We strongly believe that for Fair Park to fulfill its destiny and become a viable, commercially successful, cultural and social center, the buildings that comprise Fair Park need to be leased year round to permanent tenants. The State Fair of Texas should operate its vendor attractions from temporary buildings and air conditioned tents.

We recommend that the City closely examine San Diego's Balboa Park and learn from their experiences that transformed a 1,400 acre area with nearly identical issues to Fair Park, into a thriving, integral part of the San Diego's recreational and cultural fabric. In light of the City's inability to provide us with written assurance that we could locate the Museum permanently in a Fair Park building, we think it best that we close the Museum and return the cars to their respective owners at the end of our current Grand Place Building lease term July 31st, 2012.

We are grateful to the Park Board for granting us the opportunity of building and operating the Texas Museum of Automotive History in glorious Fair Park. We are very disappointed that they have not honored their promise to provide us a permanent home in Fair Park.

At this juncture, the only viable option to stave off the Museum's withdrawal from Fair Park is for the City to provide a guaranteed lease for the Science Museum Building with a Certificate of Occupancy. The exact terms of the lease are open to discussion.

We want to personally thank the many individuals that supported our efforts:

- Former Mayor, Tom Leppert
- Paul Dyer and the Park Board
- Daniel Huerta, General Manager of Fair Park and his Staff.
- Sam Pack, Dr. Harvey Carter and the 43 Texas Museum of Automotive History car collectors that shared their vehicles with the Museum and the public.
- George Reeves, for contributing warehouse space and financial support.
- Automotive Dealers to include Sam Pack Ford, Aston Martin, Park Place Motors, Subaru, Collins Jeep and the 170 Corporate Members of the DFW New Car Dealers Association.
- Weil, Gotshal and Manges for their 501(c)3 legal support.
- Montgomery, Coscia & Greilich for their accounting support.
- Numerous corporate and personal donors that we will thank individually.
- The Automotive Program Students from the W. H. Adamson High School and Kenny Cotton, the Teacher that developed the DISD Automotive Program.
- Eric Allen for his help in co-authoring the Four Year Texas Museum of Automotive History Restoration Factory Program course-ware.
- Pat Carmichael, David Kozack, Bryan Trubey and HKS for their architectural and Texas Museum of Automotive History logo design support.
- Culinary Arts Catering and the multiple vendors and individuals that contributed time and services to our Grand Opening Art Deco Ball.
- Johnny Rutherford and Scott Murray for emceeing our Grand Opening Art Deco Ball.
- All the Texas Museum of Automotive History donors and supporters, including the 3,000+ Friends of the Museum.

In particular, we want to recognize the significant contributions of Bill Sechrest and Jeff Howle, Texas Museum of Automotive History Board Directors.

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27 comments
Redundant Again
Redundant Again

Well, first it was the train museum folks. Now, it's the auto group. Can the City do anything right? They seem to manage to piss off alot of people.

Max from the Sandspit
Max from the Sandspit

So the Dallas Press Culb ain't hiding under the skirts of the Chick's building no mo. That sucks, about the only thing I miss about Big D is the ol' Gridiron Show.

RTGolden
RTGolden

When  the price of STUPID hits $40 a barrel, I want the drilling rights to the heads of the Dallas leadership.

(Thank you Ann Richards for the best political quote in the history of politics.)

SpeedbumpJoey
SpeedbumpJoey

It is sad to hear that this will not be around Fair Park anymore. Only 30,000 showed up? I can understand why, cause many did not even know it was there. Heck the first time I heard about this place was when I read about it on here a few days ago. They wonder why they cannot get anybody down there at Fair Park year round. It is because the advertising for the year 'round events sucks horribly.

lorlee
lorlee

One wonders from the comments, how many of you have actually set foot in Fair Park.   It is a gorgeous PARK even when the Fair isn't there and there are a lot of year round attractions and special events.  (Check out Roller Derby) 

And if you don't have the money-- why should the City pick up the tab for a small subset of folks.  That is the problem with too many things in this City.  Horse Park, Kayak Run, Bridge to Nowhere.  Remember when you want to support this guy -- it is your tax dollars that would have to do it. 

Ellum08
Ellum08

I am getting damn tired of these jack-leg 'museums' that couldn't succeed for a second in the real world criticizing the one place that is giving them a chance to build something.

I'm not saying that the City or the State Fair aren't completely blameless on some things at Fair Park, but to think about the amount of money that has been poured into Fair Park over the last decade, it doesn't make sense to bite the hand that feeds you.

I thought the Women's Museum would have been a perfect spot for it, but I guess not.

holman
holman

How's the Farmers Market doing?

Turn the leasing and management over to an outfit whose compensation is based upon performance.

Chris Danger
Chris Danger

Another reason Fair Park needs to be converted into a non-prof trust, similar to the zoo. The city needs to be quit running things besides the city, as they can barely do that right..

John
John

I've read the article several times and I agree with Dyer and Huerta.  Their decisions seem logical and responsible.  I don't see any logic in Page's self-pity letter and in the complaining reader comments.

Bob
Bob

For all those folks who think they know what Fair Park needs, show us the money.  Don't just tell us what the City ought to do with Fair Park--show us the plan and show us the money that it will take to execute that plan on a financially viable basis.

When you occupy premises at Fair Park and you don't pay rent (e.g., train museum, car museum), why do you think the City owes you something?  Did you file an adverse possession claim on your space?  Talk to Mr. Flower Mound Mansion Mogul about how that turned out for him.

Justin Julian
Justin Julian

Has anyone actually BEEN to the state fair?  I went for the first time this year and was kind of shocked at how much floorspace was taken by commercial vendors.  Multiple locations for the same vendors in multiple buildings.  There just seemed to be a LOT of filler.  

I'm saying that to say that I agree with the guy.  To suggest that you couldn't throw a comparable state fair with the museum(s) being permanent is more than a little silly.  The question is, is the state fair there just to host commercial vendors who bring in booth rentals and possibly profit sharing (don't know how it works) or is it there to actually be a state fair?  Trim some of the vendor space and you have tons of room for what you would normally put in the museum buildings (assuming it isn't just more vendor space).  Even the floor of the coliseum is used for vendor space (surely having a few hundred more square feet of vendor space is superior to potential athletic events that could happen in that space).  

So yeah, this guy is 100% correct: Dallas needs to tell the state fair people that they can provide the same amount of space while keeping the museums open year-round, it just may not all be inside, and there may not be as much vendor space.  Simple, common sense.

Which means it'll never happen.

Vacationquest2012
Vacationquest2012

A great descriptive article. I think we need to proper investigation.Thanks for the sharing.

IN the know
IN the know

No other tenants move out during the Fair. All the museums are open except Auto Museum that just started in a building the Fair has always used. Fair Park's attendance year round is higher than Balboa Park's so why should they look to them for inspiration? Fair Park is a huge success, that's the real secret of Dallas. 

Guest
Guest

So, the city wanted the car museum to commit to renovating the building and doing all sorts of work building their audience and drawing people to the museum and, in exchange, the city wanted to be able to boot them out at a moment's notice.

Can't see why someone wouldn't go for that.

Barry
Barry

How many feet do we have left that we haven't shot ourselves in yet?

JM
JM

I have to agree with the man. the State Fair cabal don't care squat about Fair Park, only the Fair. Good ole boys club. The place could be a great year round draw, instead of a ghost town with the occasional  antique show or musicfest in the Cotton Bowl. The city has dropped the ball on this one. And the Farmer's Market, and ...

lorlee
lorlee

I believe that Car Museum is responsible for its own PR -- If you haven't heard of them -- guess he didn't do such a good job.  And in that case, why would you want to give him more free space?

Oak Cliff Townie
Oak Cliff Townie

Fair Park is Like a SKI Resort Town lots to do when THE FAIR /Snow is there and everything is up and running .It just has one heck of an long Off season.

Ellum08
Ellum08

Have you not moved to Ft Worth yet?

cp
cp

I think most people who frequent this site go to the fair every year. And IIRC, the fair people kicked out the train museum because it wanted that space for.... more vendors!

just sayin'
just sayin'

With all due respect, the Museums may stay open, but they are not allowed to charge full fare - the Science Museum was only allowed $1 or $2.  And, their patrons cannot park, cannot go into the Fair gates, etc.  It kills business for the organizations within the park!!!

JSP
JSP

With all due respect I have to correct something. Balboa Park has an annual attendance that's TWICE that of Fair Park at 14 million vs 7 million (sources: Balboa Park Trust, City of Dallas website). As a former resident of San Diego who actually lived right across the street from Balboa Park (on Upas Street) and a longtime Dallas resident I can tell you that for the car museum folks to even make the comparison between the two is absurd. Both are wonderful but they really couldn't be more different.

Ray
Ray

So many shots, so few toes. In fact, none.

engmofo
engmofo

Bunch of 'em . All wearing $500 shoes

Chris Danger
Chris Danger

Maybe next year LOL...

I mean, c'mon ,  Fair Park is something MANY cities wish they could have, but we basically piss on it because of typical Tammany Hall/ Angry So. Dallas politics. I've always said we could turn this place into a full-time world-class park with concerts and events outside of the fair, but we're letting the city run it into the ground..

Chris Danger
Chris Danger

And I agree, theres some amazing things about the park, its the crack dens and vacant lots all-around the area that need to be either knocked down and build upon. Like I said prev. we need a reputable developer to come in and either fix the houses they can and knock over the dumps they cant and build decent townhomes. This could be another bishop arts or a larger extension to expo park.

Ellum08
Ellum08

I guess I see Fair Park flourishing, or trying to flourish, in spite of the 'Tammany Hall/Angry So. Dallas politics'.

The problem with Fair Park is not the City necessarily. It is the neighborhood, or the perception of the neigborhood, that surrounds it. As someone once told me, if I-30 had been built south of Fair Park, it would be a completely different place.

So, until something happens to fix those neighborhoods or perception issues, Fair Park will continue to swim upstream. But it will continue to swim because there are just too many people who give a shit.

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