Once More, With Feeling, Questions at City Hall About How to Make Better Use of Fair Park

PaulDyeratFairPark Briefing.JPG
Park and Rec chief Paul Dyer at this morning's briefing, which was anything but brief
We've had this conversation before. And before that. And before that. Why oh why oh why is Fair Park -- "our jewel," in the words of Dwaine Caraway -- so underutilized, so unloved?

Daniel Huerta, Fair Park's exec general manager, and Park and Rec head Paul Dyer, actually came to the Quality of Life Committee this morning to tell the council about how Fair Park's being used now more than ever. They came to rattle off a list of events, past and future, to promote roller derby at the Coliseum and races that use Fair Park as a starting line. They came to promote the coming North Texas Irish Festival and next weekend's Mardi Gras Texas (with Joe Ely!) and the Lone Star Karting Grand Prix and EarthDay and the Top of Texas Centennial Tower (scheduled to open in the fall) and the State Fair's summer-time midway (now known as Summer Adventures in Fair Park due to debut Memorial Day 2013 and run till the State Fair starts) and the Jimmy Buffet show at Starplex announced this morning and on and on ...

But it was a quick trip through the PowerPoint, after which council members asked all those old familiar questions, among them: Why doesn't the city do a better job marketing Fair Park? (Easy, though nobody brought it up: Because the city's gutted that particular budget out of existence.) Why isn't the Cotton Bowl used more than a handful of times during the year? What happened to the promoter who was going to book the Band Shell? Is charging $10 for parking really a good idea? How do we better connect downtown to Fair Park -- because, in the words of committee chair Angela Hunt, to most folks Fair Park feels "miles and miles away" from the Central Business District.

Dyer revealed that as a matter of fact the city did have a "great soccer game booked" for the Cotton Bowl, which was expected to bring 90,000 to Fair Park in the spring. "But they went to Arlington," he said -- Cowboys Stadium, he meant. The reason: Jerry Jones put $300,000 on the table, guaranteed. Said Dyer, "We lose events like that every year. We could have made that money back." But there's no money to offer up. Which, he said, is why the city's talking to the State Fair of Texas about creating a nonprofit that would help not only promote Fair Park but fund-raise on its behalf. (As opposed to the Friends of Fair Park, said Dyer, which is more of an "advocacy" organization.)

It was revealed toward the end of the conversation that Mayor Mike Rawlings, set to officially bow his Southern Dallas growth plan this afternoon, is talking to folks on the council about a plan for Fair Park. It's due "in the next couple of weeks," said Dwaine Caraway. Dyer sort of suggested what's to come: "If you dismantle it and rebuild it, what do you want to keep?" Ah, but how much tinkering can be done with a National Historic Landmark?

Carolyn Davis, in whose district Fair Park sits, wants to know how many folks the State Fair of Texas intends to employ for the summer midway; a briefing, she was told, is forthcoming. She wanted to know why Cowboys Stadium keeps snatching up the Cotton Bowl's events: "Is somebody from Arlington keeping up with what's going on at Fair Park in the sports world?" No, Dyer had to explain: Jerry Jones "has 20 people in marketing and recruitment." Dallas? Next to none.

"I'm tired of Jerry stealing" Dallas's events," said Caraway. "I'm tired of Frisco stealing them all. I'm tired of Verizon stealing them all." He sounded the familiar battle cry: Fill the Music Hall! And fill it now.

"I don't think there's enough commitment -- not from you all, but from the city," said Caraway, a former member of the Park Board. "Not enough commitment to Fair Park. The same kind of commitment we had to the over-deck park is the type of commitment we need to Fair Park. ... I personally know we are not living up to our expectations, nor are we meeting the level of where I think we should be."

Caraway pointed to the promoter who had intended to book shows into the Band Shell, celebrating his commitment to redoing the dressing rooms and backstage area. But, said the council member, the city more or less shit all over the guy during the State Fair of Texas, which is why it once more languishes.

Dyer told Caraway the promoter pulled out over "security costs." Caraway said: No, no, no.

"He came in and did all of the renovations," Caraway said. "Did he go a good job?"

Yes, he was told.

"The good job he did in our dressing rooms, the birds had to use the very dressing room?" Caraway said, referring to the bird show that uses the Band Shell during the State Fair of Texas.

"What I'm saying is we cannot have someone come in and renovate something and let the birds come in and poop all over everything," Caraway said. "I have nothing against birds, but the point is we lost the promoter. When I know something, I'm gonna put it out there. This is why we're not excelling to the level we should be."

And on and on Caraway continued -- one of his patented "tirades."

"We are promoting three or four events -- three football games [and] two or three other events in the Cotton Bowl, but two or three isn't going to cut it. period. And what we have to do is put that team on the ground that's going to get events in the Cotton Bowl." Concerts, he said. Tractor pulls! Anything. "If we look at the Cotton Bowl versus Cowboys Stadium and the different number of events, we have to say: Why is it they're having 100 and we're having three? We have to close that gap."

Dyer and Huerta said: They will try. But they can't do it alone. And so, perhaps, Mayor Mike to the rescue -- another mayor, with another plan. Till then? Well, I guess you could always re-re-re-re-read this.

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45 comments
Ellum08
Ellum08

Why can't the Car museum move into where the Women's Museum used to be? It is a large space that could accommodate their collection and it wouldn't have to move out of Grand Place for the State Fair.

If only
If only

Fair Park, much like Dallas Farmers Market and Convention Center represent assets city mgmt is not capable of understanding. City Mgmt sees these event venues as risk assets. City Mgmt is is in the risk aversion business, hence rules, underfunding and lack of strategic clarity. I am sure Mr. Dyer and his team does all they are capable of doing with funding a available. All the rants from council are not going to change the facts attendant to Fair Park, namely it is not a competitor to JerryWorld. However, with a change in the risk averse philosophy of city mgmt, Fair Park, convention center and Dallas Farmers Market could be successful. But u have to have intestinal fortitude, which our city mgmt lacks.

rc
rc

All of these commenters will still be here when we are all in our solar powered wheel chairs wondering when the city will solve this issue.

GoDallas
GoDallas

My only concern with the State Fair of Texas running Fair Park is who are they accountable to?  The President of the organization & senior employees make a lot of money even when the fair dosen't perform so well.

And none of this addresses the big issues that keeps a lot of people away 1. Perception of high crime2. Poor and run down neighborhood sourounding it3. Confusing street layout 4. Parking

It seems to be difficult to fill buildings with on-going exhibits that have to be emptied for the state fair...  Take the care museum for example...   What a boost it would have been to that organization had they stayed in that building durring the sate fair.

The Texas Music Center for example seems to waiting to re-build a building... when plenty of empty buildings are all over the place...   We need to find permininet exhibits for perminent buildings and do tents/tempoary buildings for the state fair to use.  we have the land to do it.

I agree that we as a City have to concentrate on that area and decide that we are going to do what we need to make it the jewl it could be.   But that may mean that drastic changes to the neighborhoods that souround the park have to be accepted.

TraneM
TraneM

So only two council people said anything? And you called it a "tirade" but to me he's the one most interested in righting the ship

Chris Danger
Chris Danger

The main challenge w/ Fair Park is the surrounding shantytown neighborhood on the south and west sides of the park. I said this last week and i'll say it again: We need an "East Austin"-style of renaissance in the area. We need developers willing to go in there and knock over the houses that are falling down, then build nicer property in its place and help restore the ones in decent condition as well. We need small business to sprout up where there's currently liquor stores and vacant lots. We need a Fair Park that puts on high-profile events year-round, to bring in and keep visitors, who will spend money and build up the local economy..Part of that maybe pushing Fair Park to non-prof status similar to the Zoo, which has improved greatly since the city exited out of the business of running it. Its time the same happens for Fair Park as well...

A Friend of Fair Park
A Friend of Fair Park

One of the failures in Fair Park is the absolutely useless Friends of Fair Park. Craig Holcomb has not done anything worth pointing to in 20 years as head of FFP. He stymies and drags his feet on any initiative. Fair Park needs a dynamic leader for the support group.

Scruffygeist
Scruffygeist

Why can't high school football be played there?

Downtown_worker
Downtown_worker

If the State Fair organization does such an awesome job running Fair Park during the fair and plans on running it for the whole summer starting next year, would they be interested in taking over year-round operation of the park? Privatization worked for the Dallas Zoo, so why not Fair Park?

Larry
Larry

I travel all over the world, and I can't think of a city that wouldn't love to have an asset like Fair Park. And yet, as is typical with Dallas, we fumble along year after year with no money, no plan, no low-grade programming. You don't mention the flea market type of events that sometimes occupies the buildings along the Esplanade, which should be top tier space.

Fair Park does not have the revenue base to treat it like a business, except for the State Fair. You're not reporting it here, but local philanthropists absolutely refuse to support Fair Park because they're not stupid... they see no plan with the city's full backing. The city keeps running to them and asking them to put in the up front money, the risk dollars. That will never, ever happen because these people didn't get rich by throwing money down the toilet. They are still sore about funding the Women's Museum and watching it struggle and ultimately fail. Many of them thought that the Cowboys Stadium was the impetus to turn around Fair Park, and when Jerry moved to Arlington, local philanthropists got a reinforcing shot of the city not backing up Fair Park. And they backed away even more.

In fact, a lot of potential donors will absolutely refuse to invest in Fair Park as long as the city is responsible for governance of the park. You will hear people closer to the city howl about that, but you go check that with high dollar funders in town... they will tell you without exception that is true, it is a fact. Creating a non-profit alongside Friends of Fair Park won't do shit. Unless the State Fair board can raise the money.

Even the Meadows Foundation, who has invested millions of dollars at Fair Park, has backed away because they can't tell their donors how the money they invest in Fair Park has generated results. We can put low grade events like tractor pulls in to Fair Park, but that is a waste. It's not just about programming, although that is critical. You also need to remove the barriers that stop investors and donors infuse the park with needed investment. End of story. Whatever we do, I am finally getting the sense that everyone is tired of this circular discussion which goes on year after year, decade after decade. It's time to go in a new direction.

Gabe
Gabe

I made a quick and dirty map of fixing the street network south of Exposition. 

https://plus.google.com/photos...

The red squiggles are deleted portions of streets. The blue is the new ROW, and the green boxes are the new, complete blocks that would be created.

Gabe
Gabe

Fix (read: downsize and remove) the crazy network of streets that are designed to get people in and out of Fair Park at the expense of the neighborhood. For instance, remove the intersectionless curves that connect  1st and 2nd to Robert B Cullum. Connect 1st and 2nd with traditional stop light controlled intersection and reclaim that wasted land for development. 

cynical old bastard
cynical old bastard

I know of one event that is no longer held at Fair Park because the City of Dallas requires you to book security through their approved security vendor.  You cannot hire your own security based upon open bidding.  The cost of security, coupled with the cost of required insurance, makes Fair Park too expensive for some events.

Adam from East Dallas
Adam from East Dallas

I've got it!  You could provide tax incentives for a somewhat famous sports team owner to build a state of the art 100,000+ seat stadium for his more famous sports team, thereby encouraging increased hotel tax revenue, encourage development in the blighted surrounding area and encourage downtown night life...  Or you could build a very expensive fake suspension bridge to nowhere.

lorlee
lorlee

If the City doesn't have a budget to promote Fair Park, Friends of Fair Park has even less.  Hard to do what needs to be done without a bunch of cash. 

T. Erickson
T. Erickson

I've heard it's expensive to maintain the natural grass field, so they'd have to install turf.

sizzler
sizzler

fair park used to host high school and middle school football games during the fair back in the day

RTGolden
RTGolden

Careful Scruffy,  you're dancing very close to the edge of making sense.

Chris Danger
Chris Danger

I've asked that as well, the Cotton Bowl would be a great location for a DISD inter-city rival game during the fair, outside the UT/OU and Grambling/Prarie View games.

Alfredo
Alfredo

They use to run the park but the city took it back from them about 15-20 years ago because the city thought they could do a better job running the park

Paul
Paul

 FYI, state law prohibits building something such as JerryWorld inside of a park.  JerryWorld would have had to have been built outside of Fair Park.

Besides, the available tax stream for subsidizing a JerryWorld inside the city limits of Dallas or within Dallas County was far less than what was available from the City of Arlington.

Neither the City of Dallas nor Dallas County had their questions answered before "He whose name shall not be uttered." pack up is bags and took off for Arlington.

Additionally, JerryWorld, had it located within the Dallas city limits would have had to offer any event, other than a Cowboys game to Hicks at the Arena before he could schedule it at JerryWorld.  And you know that "He whose name shall not be uttered"'s ego is way to big for him to be 2nd fiddle to anybody.

Please do not rewrite history.

Dallas
Dallas

FYI... Meadows has no donors, they are an endowed foundation. They do not accept donation public or private.

Lee
Lee

Why is it any harder to get to Fair Park, just two blocks off of I 30, than it is to get to the Bishop Arts District, for example.? It is a straight two block shot off of the I 30 exit. The street arrangement is no better nor no worse than any other streets in Dallas.

Lambrettista
Lambrettista

You have an amen on this one, brother.. we ran into the same thing.

Urbandweller203
Urbandweller203

I agree!!!!!!!  A major stadium should be built around the historic fair park. Get the oilers name that is available from Bud Adams and get a football team for this "world class city". The franchise should be totally independent, only having the Fair Park for support, like six flags is to Jerry's Stadium. North Texas can support 2 teams. If not, Frisco will get a major team and the council will be crying again that someone took their cheese! A new stadium will set the plan for Rawling plan for Dallas. We took the Maverick name from Houston...Houston took the Texan name, so I guess Dallas can get the oiler's name.

 Until then......

Go Dallas Oilers!

Lee
Lee

Having Jerry's World in Fair Park would have ruined the park as well as the neighborhoods around the park. It is a monstrosity that suits him and Arlington just fine.

Lee
Lee

FFP might be able to so successful fundraising if they has some successes to show and had competent leadership.

Jedis54
Jedis54

Fair Park would have to waive some rent for DISD to have games at the Cotton Bowl.  It probably would cost more to have games at the CB than their own athletic plants.   So DISD might as well keep that revenue instead of spending it by playing a game at the Cotton Bowl.  If the Cotton Bowl had the FieldTurf instead of real grass, then it may be feasible to have 3 or 4 games in before the State Fair starts, or have a triple header scheduled the opening day of the State Fair. 

Lee
Lee

The State Fair did not run the park in actuality. The fact is that there was undefined, nebulous responsibility on a year around basis, leading to fights over those responsibilities and tasks to be done, such as who paid for new roofs on buildings. The change clarifies that the Park Department runs the park year around, but the State Fair has a lease for 4 months of the year-August through November, to set up and take down the State Fair. I don't know what the new Midway set up may be.

Adam from East Dallas
Adam from East Dallas

We all know about the state law - the legislature was readyto put this on the emergency agenda to change - but the same Caraway and otherson the City Council and County Commissioners Court wanted to prolong the issueafter and only after certain "consultants" were hired to"study" the matter and answer those questions you refer.  The FBI has exposed those consultants now andtheir demands for "equity".

The monies Dallas taxpayers would have invested in thestadium would have been returned tenfold in the form of hotel tax, restaurants,improved commercial and residential development and the intangibles such asattracting businesses downtown, city moral and national image.  Dallas would most have certainly retained theCotton Bowl, attracted mega conventions (e.g. National Political PartyConventions), the Olympics and most importantly would have been able to keepthe Texas/OU game which will inevitably move 20 miles west.

Big men have big egos. This is Texas.  Get over it.  While "his" ego may be big, Laura'swas even bigger and for that the City of Dallas will never forgive.  Margaret was just too clueless tounderstanding the business of sports. Hence, Laura's refusal to run for re-election and Margaret's whollopingdefeat.  Instead, Laura pushed for analmost as expensive series of pretty bridges to nowhere which generate zeroincome in the hope that they may generate development sometime in the distantfuture whenever the Trinity Tollway issue ever gets resolved.

In the 1920s, Dallas won the right to host the State Fairagainst competing bids from Houston, Austin and San Antonio by throwing down ahuge suitcase of cash on the table and asking "Please accept ouroffering.  Choose Dallasplease".  Dallas should have donethe same, instead of letting Farlington beat out a city once known for itsbusiness acumen and can do spirit.

Larry
Larry

I am not interested in flogging that dead horse, nor was I trying to. I am telling you that people who have the capacity to invest in Fair Park believe that the city fumbled the ball with Cowboys stadium, and believe me, you can't tell them any differently. There is a mindset among the elite in Dallas that what's broken at Fair Park is the city of Dallas government.

Paul Dyer and Daniel Huerta are fighting the fight. However, when I read the article above, I wish they would not react defensively when questioned by the council. Or make it sound like everything is rosy. What I would say is, "we have generated the best result that we can with both hands tied behind our backs." The other point I was trying to get across is you need money to make Fair Park more than it is today, and there is a huge obstacle to attracting money that does beyond programming, and the neighborhood where it is located.  

Oak Cliff Townie
Oak Cliff Townie

DAMN THAT LAURA MILLER.....Insert the OH WAIT here .You mean That was the Ron Kirk, Perot ,Hicks,City Manager seat premium  sweetheart deal  Or the that areas just been redistricted we are finally  getting rid of Martin Frost   And we don't need a lot  of those southern  Pro stadium Democrat  voters at the polls  is why the County-judge rejected idea for the stadium to be built deal ?

Gabe
Gabe

I'm not sure I understand - I'm saying that the streets do a fine job of getting cars to the park and out of the park, but they do so by carving up blocks of the neighborhood around it, making them fairly useless for anything but parking lots and large grass medians. 

Keithcash
Keithcash

This is very true. Look into the concession agreements as well. The reason Fair Park suffers is because it is too expensive a place to operate, with too much red tape.  

Bob Loblaw
Bob Loblaw

I actually agree with both of you.  But, you know, Jerry lives in Dallas.  I wish he'd stop screwing us. 

Paul
Paul

There are independent economic studies based on actual data that show that subsidies to professional sports teams do not pay off.

Dallas has had the State Fair since 1886.  See http://www.bigtex.com/sft/Abou...

What every one sees now at Fair Park are the buildings which were built for the 1936 Texas Centennial Exposition, which was also the 1936 World's Fair.

What is now called the Centennial Hall, on the east side of the Esplanade in front of the Hall of State, is the oldest surviving building at Fair Park and dates to 1905.

For more information about the buildings at Fair Park, see: http://www.fairpark.org/index....

hth

Oak Cliff Townie
Oak Cliff Townie

 I do like your take on it but it still proves the point of a Dysfunctional leadership.

NO NASCAR NO HORSE TRACK NO Other sports STADIUM . 

But still some of the Leadership folks have gotten their way . And to the Tune of Hundreds of Millions .

We have the Large Marge Parks and Arts and Museums in the Woodall Rogers area .

So lets take the sports reference out  and sub in the arts and others And WORLD CLASS the same  Divided Leadership can still declare a WIN

So your point was ?

Paul
Paul

The negotiations were led by Dallas County.  The City of Dallas was in on the discussion because at that time, it was considered likely that the stadium would be located somewhere within the Dallas City limits.

JJ and his crew yanked the offer before any details of the project were disclosed.

Basically JJ told the county to pass this tax and we will use it to build a stadium ... take it or leave it.

The main thing was and is that this tax stream was smaller than what the City of Arlington could provide with a 1% sales tax.

Second the City of Arlington made it clear that they (the city) would use eminent domain and ordinance power to declare the area for the new stadium as a blighted area in order to be able to force the sales.

hth

PS:  Please do not try to rewrite history, it only makes you look like a shill.

Larry
Larry

Sorry I was saying that beating the dead horse is "why did we let Jerryworld go to Arlington" ... I thought you were thinking I was going down that road, just wanted to say that I was talking about the perception of monied interests in this town. 

Oak Cliff Townie
Oak Cliff Townie

I was more in agreement with you than questioning your points .As for flogging the Dead Horse ?We are where we are because of the dysfunctional groups that fight over the Grail of Leadership in our town.

The citizens can't be blamed if those who hold the power of some purse strings were out smarted and out played by and out matched by another group who happened to have built an arena then controlled the closing paperwork deal of the project with the city .And put a Poison pill in the middle of it.

Lee
Lee

Now that is really wishful thinking....Jerry is only thinking of himself

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