Tuesday, July 07, 2009

Fair Park possibilities

I read with great interest Scott Parks' story on Saturday in The Dallas Morning News reporting on plans to open an entertainment park in Fair Park from May through August in 2012.

Not too sure that I'll be caught in line to ride the new roller coaster, but I applaud Errol McKoy's vision to do something with this grossly underutilized public asset.

McKoy, president of the State Fair of Texas that fills the park in September and October annually for the famous fair, knows something about theme parks and crowd pleasing. He worked for Six Flags Over Texas for twenty years before joining the State Fair in 1987.

My interest is not specific to McKoy's plan.

I just think something needs to be done to maximize and to take advantage of the fairgrounds for the good of everyone, especially those who live in and around the Fair Park community.

Fair Park is owned by the city of Dallas, as in us!

In the organizational scheme of things at City Hall, it is "a division of the Dallas Park and Recreation Department. Located two miles east of downtown Dallas, Fair Park is home to nine museums and six performance facilities, including the Music Hall, Smirnoff Music Centre, Band Shell and the Cotton Bowl Stadium.

This National Historic Landmark has the largest collection of 1930s Art Deco exposition style architecture in the United States located on 277 acres of beautifully landscaped grounds. Special features include the Leonhardt Lagoon, Texas Vietnam Memorial and Smith Fountain.

Over 749,000 square feet of enclosed space can be leased for conferences, exhibits, markets, festivals and sporting events. Over seven million people visit Fair Park annually for ticketed events with 3.5 million attending the State Fair of Texas for three weeks each fall." [information in italics lifted right off of the Fair Park site!]

In my view the park represents a wasted opportunity to create many new jobs; housing of varied sorts, ranging from permanent supportive studio apartments to high-end, upscale condos and town homes to inner-city Art Deco lofts; an entertainment district with band stages fit for a "Texas Music Festival" or something like what I just witnessed in Milwaukee with their "Summerfest;" mixed use retail development that could feed off of the new DART rail stop at the gates of the park; possibly even funky, new urban office space for businesses of all kinds, for-profit and non-profit; sports fields for youth baseball and soccer academies and leagues; and a corporate academic coaching center where DISD students could come after school for mentoring, help with school work, expsoure to higher science and math, and participation in fine arts under the direction of an army of volunteers from our corporate and professional community. Or, how about a minor league baseball team to add to that mix?

Fair Park is a public treasure.

We must not continue to regard it as just the place where the State Fair shows up for a month each year. It could be so much more than it is today. We need to dust it off, call together neighborhood and other community leaders, add new vision and renew it completely for the good of the entire city.

1 comment:

dmowen said...

I like the idea of a Texas Music Festival. I just recently moved back to Dallas from Seattle where they have a somewhat similar area to Fair Park called Seattle Center. They host at least two major music festivals which draw huge crowds- Northwest Folklife and Bumbershoot. Would love to see a similar thing in Dallas along these lines or like an Austin City Limits or South by Southwest