July 27, 2017

Fairpark Looking to Rebound as West Side Jewel

|||||||| |||||||| ||||||||

New stadium just the beginning of venue improvements

By Jade Sarver and Nigel Swaby

It was only a year ago a new arena for the Fairpark was announced in a public meeting. Now, it’s ready to open to the public. A soft opening for local residents and Okland Construction and partners, who built the stadium, took place on June 30. A few lead up events like the Bubble Run and BMW motorcycle rally have taken place since, but the grand opening happens on July 19 with the start of the Days of ‘47 Rodeo.

While the arena is the centerpiece right now, other changes offer a glimpse of what might come of the venue. For instance, Pat’s BBQ is opening a full-time restaurant in the center food court area that may usher in additional restaurant tenants. Pat Barber, the owner, is thrilled about this new space. He is looking forward to getting to know his new neighbors, incorporating what this incredible community has to offer, and taking advantage of the opportunities available at the Fairpark. He hopes to create a lively and thriving gathering place for the neighborhood and the state by offering frequent live music and many special planned events (and possible expansion!)

The Jordan River marina west of the Fairpark is ripe for recreational activity including hiking, biking and canoeing. In a few years, City Creek will empty into the river at the southern part of the marina, providing additional recreational opportunities. UTA will no longer be using a lot on the premises for parking. These are all steps being taken to open up the Fairgrounds for year-round use, which may, in effect, provide additional entertainment, employment and economic opportunity for the surrounding neighborhoods.

This all leads back to the stadium. While proposed as a rodeo venue, it’s easy enough to add flooring to make it a musical venue, a sports venue or any myriad of other purposes. The Fairgrounds Coliseum served a purpose for mid-sized concerts for many years, but was demolished in 1997. Musical acts like Smashing Pumpkins, New Order, They Might be Giants and U2 have all played at the Coliseum. The new 10,000 seat arena could revive Salt Lake’s concert scene.

Ironically, it was DeLoy Hansen’s proposal to construct a minor league soccer stadium that brought a renewed focus to the venue. The failure of that bid caused the legislature to modernize the legal operations of the property, creating the environment we enjoy today. Larry Mullenax, Executive Director of the Utah State Fairpark Corporation (the non-profit that manages the state fair and all state Fairpark facilities), hopes to stimulate development and growth at the Fairpark that hasn’t been seen for years.

As more businesses and restaurants look to the Fairpark and surrounding areas to call home, residents of the neighborhoods could see a vibrant entertainment district evolve. Soon fair season won’t be the only time the Fairpark becomes a destination.