View Full Version : OK State Fair Park could see $79.5 Million Expo...

04-13-2009, 12:08 PM
State Fair officials say renovations could attract regional, national shows
Comments 4

Published: April 12, 2009

A proposal to build a $79.5 million exposition hall at Oklahoma City’s State Fair Park has been submitted to the fair’s board of directors as part of a master plan developed by one of the nation’s foremost fairgrounds building design firms.

The focal point of the master plan developed by HOK Smith Forkner is a massive 407,778-square-foot exhibition hall that would include 300,000 square feet of flexible exhibition space.

Clayton I. Bennett, chairman of the board of directors of Oklahoma State Fair Inc., said he is excited about the potential of such a large exhibition hall because it would enable the city to attract regional and national shows that have bypassed the city in the past because of a lack of adequate facilities.

The hall also would give the park’s current exhibitors room to grow, said Tim O’Toole, president and general manager of Oklahoma State Fair Inc.

"Our goal is to be a world-class, 21st century tourists’ destination,” O’Toole said.

Who will pay for it?
Bennett and O’Toole both said they hope city officials will consider funding the fairgrounds project as part of Oklahoma City’s contemplated MAPS III initiative.

Other funding alternatives haven’t really been considered at this point, they said.

"One thing I think is exciting about this particular project is it can be built quickly,” Bennett said, adding that a fast turnaround would enable the city to quickly start receiving the economic benefits.

A study is currently being done to determine how much money it would pump into the local economy, he said.

The hall could be completed within 24 months of the date construction starts, O’Toole said.

Bennett said it is important the project be viewed in context with everything else that might be included in MAPS III, be complementary to those projects and that it enjoy broad public support.

While some might question building such a project during difficult economic times, Bennett said Oklahoma City has a successful history of doing just that.

"Clearly, investment in the city in difficult economic times has through time proven to be the right decision,” he said. "I think continuing to grow and continuing to invest is important.”

Often, costs for construction are lower when the economy is poor, O’Toole said.

About the plans
The master plan recommends the expo hall be constructed east of Norick Arena and joined to the arena by an enclosed pedestrian bridge. The whole hall could be opened up for large events, or subdivided to simultaneously host smaller events.

Bennett said the state fair has spent a lot of money upgrading the park’s equine facilities, and he believes the fair needs an exhibit hall that will both complement the equine and agricultural facilities and allow the park to increase its trade show and exhibition business.

Bennett pointed out the contrast between the park’s "beautiful, national-caliber equine facilities” and its "series of outdated and obsolete exhibition halls.”

The HOK Smith Forkner report said the park’s current expo facilities consist of six buildings totaling more than 315,000 square feet that are spread out on the grounds. Four of the buildings were built in the 1950s, and the other two were built in 1969 and 1984. The 1984 building was renovated in 2005.

"We would be happy to start as soon as funding is available,” O’Toole said. "If it could be started in two to five years, that would be magnificent.”

04-13-2009, 12:22 PM
I take it this plan/proposal is made outside of what I thought was a "master plan" for the fairgrounds devised back when ol' Skip Wegner was running (or was that "ruining") the fair?

04-13-2009, 02:36 PM
Pictured is a conceptual rendering of what the proposed $79.5 million exhibition hall at Oklahoma City's State Fair Park might look like and how it would fit into the existing landscape. Photo provided

Sounds like Bennett is wanting to cash in a favor from Mayor Mick for buying us an NBA team. I sensed something like this was coming, just didn't want to believe it. The Gaylord/Bennett family has been heavily involved with State Fairgrounds for a long time. Personally, I'd rather see them raise the hotel/motel tax (still well below national avg.) and fund a massive expansion, cleanup/renovation of the fairgrounds, something much bigger than just a new expo hall. Don't get me wrong, something like this is needed, just don't want it funded by MAPS3. I think there are alternative and better funding mechanisms as described above for this project.

04-13-2009, 06:01 PM
Metro, if that picture is a resemblance to anything that actually might happen, then it will result in the clean up of the park. Look at the configuration in that picture. A whole former parking lot is missing. The area for the rides is moved, and new path ways and greenland is instituted. I think the dirtiest part of the State Fairgrounds is that decrepit area next to the grandstand where the rides go in. They just need to tear down the stadium and redo that whole parking lot with landscaping.

But oh gosh, do I agree. I do not want this funded by the Maps 3 initiative. Nu-uh.

04-13-2009, 06:09 PM
I have been for all the past Maps proposals. But if this gets put in the mix of Maps next round, I will not be for it. Go back to what the studies found. Mass Transportation. We need to get started on a master plan for walking, bike trails (Not just on the outer edges but connecting the city from 63rd south, Portland to I 35 and south to 59th) The current proposed plan does very little to connect the core of the city. Also lets get the walking paths/ as a priority for this city. Also the park system needs to be upgraded if we want a liveable city.

04-13-2009, 07:47 PM
I have been for all the past Maps proposals. But if this gets put in the mix of Maps next round, I will not be for it. Go back to what the studies found. Mass Transportation. ...

No disrespect, but I believe the "studies" were to prove a pre-determined objective, and "Mass Transit" was what MAPS III was, theoretically, going to be about from the get-go.

I think we've tossed quite a bit of coin the fairgrounds way, and until I see something that suggests were going to at least try to embrace some aspect of fairgrounds history as we plunge forward with yet-another-master-plan to renovate it, I think its time to put the brakes on city-funded fairgrounds development.

One of the great things about an expanding hotel base is that it creates a corresponding opportunity to increase revenues from hotel/motel taxes. I see no reason why this shouldn't be pursued aggressively over yet-another "just one more penny" sales tax campaign....

04-13-2009, 08:06 PM
I am getting the feeling MAPS3 is turning into a stimulus-like money-grab.


04-14-2009, 10:48 AM
The exhibition space at the fairgrounds is sorely needed, but I agree with the rest of you that this should not be a part of Maps3. The hotel/motel tax would make much more sense and free up Maps 3 for what the citizens have asked for; Transportaion, parks, etc. I would love to see Maps 3 include a lightrail from the airport, up meridian to sw15th (hotels and river) across 15th to dell corp, then up portland past furniture row to the fairgrounds, then east to downtown/c2s/new convention center.

While we're on the subject the fairgrounds needs alot of work. Besides the exhibition space it would be nice to see more landscaping, the grandstands torn down and a small-mid-sized stadium (10,000-20,000 seat) for high school football, soccer or whatever, and an ampitheatre to replace the ampitheatre shell (minus the theatre) that we currently have at the fairgrounds. (these projects I would welcome as part of Maps3) Landscaping more than anything needs to be added to the fairgrounds. Trees and grass would be a nice change of pace compared to the asphalt and dirt that now covers the fairgrounds. Lets make it something we can be proud of.

Turn the garden building (this used to be my favorite building on the grounds) back into a garden building (now a police hq) and add a botanical garden. And some water feature would be great. Ponds or a lake with some grassy areas for picnics while at the fair. I keep thinking of the Dallas fairgrounds in comparison.

OKC fairgrounds: | Virtual Media (

Dallas fairgrounds: Dallas Fair Park: The Texas State Fairgrounds (


I wanted to add google map aerials of okc's fairgrounds and the one in Dallas but couldn't figure out how to save the pics....sorry. But anyone who has been to both knows that Dallas' fairgrounds is covered with grass, lakes, and trees. Ours is asphalt and dirt.

04-14-2009, 01:41 PM
It would seem like this would be in conflict with the new convention center to some degree. Getting the C2S convention center passes will be hard enough. I can't imagine voters approving a MAPS that includes this too.

04-17-2009, 02:58 PM
Does anyone know if this would cause the removal of the racetrack?

04-17-2009, 03:00 PM
I doubt it, especially since the article didn't mention it and this building is not proposed where the racetrack stands. Long-term, I could however see them replacing or relocating it.

04-17-2009, 11:33 PM
I would like to see a permeant midway built on the fairgrounds that could operate year round. I think it would be cool to ride the space needle more than one time of year.