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Stodola makes pitch for keeping fair in LR

By Gavin Lesnick

This article was originally published March 15, 2012 at 10:12 a.m. Updated March 15, 2012 at 11:05 a.m.


With a map detailing options for expanding the Arkansas State Fairgrounds as his backdrop, Little Rock Mayor Mark Stodola makes a pitch Thursday for having the fair stay where it is rather than moving.

Little Rock Mayor Mark Stodola's proposals for the Arkansas State Fair.

— Little Rock Mayor Mark Stodola is making his pitch for having the Arkansas State Fair expand its grounds on Roosevelt Road rather than move to a new location.

Stodola, speaking Thursday before the Arkansas Livestock Show Association’s executive board, encouraged the members to have the grounds stay where they are in Little Rock.

"It is the capital, it is the heart of our state," Stodola told the board at the start of his presentation. "And we would love to for you to stay here for the next 65 years."

Stodola said he will talk about several possibilities for on-site expansion: The city could acquire more than 50 acres of land east of the fairgrounds, railroad tracks could be shifted to open up 34 acres to the west or a separate parcel of 47 acres to the west could be connected through a promenade added to a new Roosevelt Road Bridge. Officials are also looking into creating a southern entrance to the grounds.

Stodola told the board the city is committed to fixing "dilapidated and abandoned" houses around the fairgrounds, noting the fair requires a "positive" surrounding neighborhood.

"I know that's been a criticism that's been directed toward us," he said. "And I think it's a fair one, too, by the way."

In addition to the plans for more space, there are other reasons to stay, Stodola said. The fairgrounds are likely eligible for "substantial" restoration funds to fix up buildings, which could in turn draw more events and open up naming rights possibilities.

He noted the city spends more than $100,000 each fair to provide police security and that taxpayers, in passing a sales tax increase last year, approved a measure to raise $3 million to keep the grounds where they are.

"We'd love to keep you," Stodola said. "We want you to stay. We think it's the smart economic decision ... The money is on the table. And these options are also on the table. And if you decide that, we're ready to put our shoulder to the wheel and go to work on it."

The board didn't take any action on Stodola's proposal, but indicated it may do so at its next quarterly meeting. Stodola said he wanted a "long-term commitment" from the fair if it accepts the $3 million.

The fair put out a call for new locations three years ago and has considered different options, including one proposal to move to Jacksonville.


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Displaying 1 - 7 of 7 total comments

snapper1 says... March 15, 2012 at 11:23 a.m.

clean up the fair grounds,block off roosevelt road entrance and put the southern entrance,leave the old bridge alone

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lazybar says... March 15, 2012 at 11:48 a.m.

from a livestock exhibitor stand point.the arkansas state fair is a joke.grand champion at houston livestock show paid $210,000 and a good year our state fair pays $1500 for grand champion.livestock barns are outdated and over run.parking is crowded.trailers have to be taken offsite and often picked up afterdark.parking lots are fairly safe but traveling down roosevelt and battery streets are not.same lame rides every year.i have no problem with state fair being in lr but it needs a total makeover

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TheBatt says... March 15, 2012 at 1:01 p.m.

The area of the fair grounds is more like a 3rd World country than the USA. Rampant gangs, crime, drugs, and generally it is unsafe.

Mr. Stodola - all of those possible ways of improving and expanding the grounds and the neighborhood cost significant money and resources that even your recent tax increase won't pay for. You are dealing with a neighborhood that hates the world and that doesn't CARE for the fair (other than more targets for crime).

Personally - I believe the State Fair should be in the Little Rock metro area - it indeed is the center of the state, and the hub of all corners. But the current location in absolutely horrible. This city should be ashamed it was allowed to become what it has.

Further - even beyond the safety and image issues - as another has already posted, the fair has become rather lame in comparison to surrounding states. While it is hard to compare to the Texas State Fair - a MUCH larger state, with far more resources and participants - the Arkansas State Fair has seen no significant improvements or advances in the last few decades.

( | suggest removal ) says... March 15, 2012 at 2:10 p.m.

Please keep in Little Rock... Use State money for something good for a change. Make bigger and better!!! It use to be something very special, it can be again. I grew up showing there and couldn't wait to get back. We can build it up and have the sponsors needed to make it a show place. Make everyone proud again. Clear out the houses around there and make easy access. Redevelop what you have and DO IT NOW!

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Jackabbott says... March 15, 2012 at 3:09 p.m.

Little Rock needs to spruce, clean and re-hab the whole area starting from Daisy Bates Drive to Roosevelt. It has been neglected for years.
As for th Livestock Assn. they had better factor in the cost of gasoline and other transportation costs in moving to a remote or sparsely populated area. Otherwise they risk having a show and no one "showing" up to see it.

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tomspann says... March 15, 2012 at 9:32 p.m.

No chance for my vote. The last two times we took our family to the fair our car was broken into. I discourage anyone from being in this area and attending the state fair. Move it somewhere it is safe for families to attend.

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