Controversial Contract Extension for State Fair of Texas

Critics say city gave in too easily on contract extension when issues remain

A 10-year contract extension for the State Fair of Texas was controversial at Dallas City Hall Wednesday, even though no one wants the fair to leave Dallas Fair Park.

The latest controversy comes after years of battle over Fair Park management.

A nonprofit called “Fair Park First” has just taken over operation of the park, but it did not negotiate the fair extension deal that was completed by the City Manager.

“In principal we’re in agreement with the extension. We haven’t had a chance to look at all the financial agreements as they go forward,” said Fair Park First President Daren James.

Several City Council Members demanded a delay to put more details in the contract, including Councilwoman Sandy Greyson who leads a committee that reviewed the deal.

Councilman Philip Kingston said more time is needed to include, among other things, the plan to convert parking lots at the edge of the park into park space.

“That process should be a public process, heavy on input from the neighborhoods around Fair Park,” Kingston said.

The City Council majority rejected delay and voted to support the state fair extension.

“This is a signature opportunity,” Councilman Rickey Callahan said. “To continue to delay on minor terms, I just don’t think is mutually beneficial for our city.”

The new contract does include the fair taking over the entire cost of security by paying off duty officers instead of the on-duty officers the short-staffed force provided in the past.

The fair also agreed to a "living wage" of at least $11.15 an hour for all workers, with language added Wednesday to see that wages rise with the cost of living in the future.

“Neither of those items gave us any heartburn. Those are items we absolutely knew we should support, to help the city do the right thing there,” said State Fair President Mitchell Glieber.

Officials with the fair and the nonprofit management group said they support other issues that were not in the contract, including the new park space.

“No question, they’ve got to. We’ve got to put the park back in Fair Park. It’s got too much concrete,” said Mayor Mike Rawlings. “It’s in everybody’s best interest.”

The fair and the management group leaders said they intend to work together on making Fair Park more of a year round attraction in the future.

“We just wanted to make sure that we had a home for the foreseeable future for the State Fair of Texas and we didn’t have to worry about that,” Glieber said.

Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings also said he is working on an extension of the deal to host Texas-OU football games at the Cotton Bowl in Fair Park.

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