SALT LAKE CITY — Construction of a new 10,000-seat stadium at the Utah State Fairpark is 40 percent complete, with plans to host 5,000 participants at a BMW Motorcycle owners rally in early July.
The $17 million stadium is being built in part from an infusion of $10 million in funding from the Utah Legislature approved during a special session last summer, and a $3 million contribution from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
Larry Mullenax, executive director of the Utah State Fairpark, briefed members of the Natural Resources, Agriculture and Environmental Quality Appropriations Subcommittee last week, detailing efforts to continue to improve the bottom line of Fairpark operations.
Attendance at the annual fair was up 4.7 percent over the prior year, and carnival ride revenue eclipsed a benchmark set in 2008 by a little more than 5 percent.
Fair officials brought in a third party to audit receipts generated from concessions such as food and beverages because it is a revenue-sharing agreement. The audit found that overall revenue jumped by 71.6 percent over the prior year, Mullenax said.
"They'll be back this year," he said.
Eight events that span multiple days are booked at the Fairpark from July to October, including the Days of '47 Rodeo — which is a $2 million, Olympic-style rodeo that Mullenax said is among the best in the nation. A purse of $100,000 is offered in each competitive event such as bull riding, barrel racing and calf roping.
Despite a successful year with the fair and other events, Mullenax said there were some financial losses along the way, including $180,000 forfeited because the old arena had to be decommissioned to make room for construction of the stadium.
Mullenax said Fairpark officials were obligated to pay contracts associated with the arena and missed out on other events. There was approximately $327,000 in lost revenue.
Gov. Gary Herbert's budget for the coming fiscal year offers a $675,000 general fund appropriation for the Fairpark, which Mullenax said he hopes will become self-sustaining in the next five to six years.
To cover losses, Mullenax asked the committee to fund close to $1.3 million.
"We will be grateful for whatever they can give us," he said.
Rep. Sandra Hollins, D-Salt Lake City, represents the district that includes the Fairpark and says residents there are looking forward to the opening of the new stadium.
"They are ecstatic to have this," she said. "They have been fighting to save the fairgrounds, fighting to save the fair. This is a way to showcase our community."