SALT LAKE CITY — A legislative proposal would make it possible for the Days of '47 Rodeo to someday move its performances to the Utah State Fairpark, rather than trucking its livestock each day to the heart of downtown Salt Lake City.
SB173, sponsored by Sen. Kevin Van Tassell, R-Vernal, provides greater flexibility for the Utah State Fairpark board to enter into leases for events at its 50-acre facility, although a lease for 10 years or more would still have to meet the approval the State Building Board and the Legislature's Executive Appropriations Committee.
Utah lawmakers have been grappling for years to find ways to help the Utah State Fairpark turn a profit and generate enough money to keep pace with needed maintenance.
Although the fair itself turns a profit, it's not enough for annual upkeep, Van Tassell said.
"The state fair itself makes money, but there are not many businesses that can operate 10 to 12 days a year and support itself," Van Tassell said during a Monday presentation to the Senate Natural Resources Agriculture and Environmental Quality Committee.
Van Tassell chaired a subcommittee that spent more than 12 months coming up with solutions to keep the Utah State Fairpark viable. The subcommittee grew out of a consultant's extensive study and slate of recommendations that examined a wide variety of options for the facility and the fair itself, including selling the land and moving the fair to a new location altogether.
Steeped in agriculture and livestock traditions, the state fair may seem out of place next to light rail and the modern-day commercial activity of North Temple, but an overwhelming majority of local residents want it to stay put, and lawmakers want it to continue to showcase Utah's heritage. Consultants also found it would be more expensive to build a new facility for the annual event over fixing the facilities already in place.
Van Tassell's group dug in to find ways to make that happen.
"We want to make it bigger than it is," Van Tassell said. "It has always been the desire of the state Legislature that we get the state Fairpark to where it is self-supporting."
Van Tassell added there are "partners" who want to come in and stage events on the grounds, and some major events would help to boost its fiscal health, including the Days of '47 Rodeo.1 comment on this story
Such a change makes sense in many ways, he added, since rodeo organizers already have to board their livestock at the facility and then truck them to the Vivint Arena for the rodeo.
Van Tassell's bill also sets up an advisory committee that would include a representative from the Days of '47 organization — should there be a lease signed — as well as representatives from Salt Lake City and Salt Lake County.
Sen. Margaret Dayton, R-Orem, urged support of the bill.
"The state Fairpark is a wonderful tradition and we need to maintain it the best we can for the benefit of the state."
The measure passed unanimously.