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City Leaders and Fair Park visionaries celebrate passage of Proposition A

"Very quickly people are going to see a Fair Park that is vastly improved," said Fair Park First CEO Brian Luallen.

DALLAS — Fair Park is a beehive of activity right now as work crews continue the 3-week tear down that comes after the State Fair of Texas. But city leaders are also busy celebrating the makeover Fair Park and the Kay Bailey Hutchison Convention Center will eventually receive thanks to voters on Tuesday night.

Voters gave approval to Proposition A by a wide margin, which will increase the city's hotel occupancy tax by 2% for a total maximum rate of 15% to fund renovations of the Convention Center and Fair Park.

"Well I couldn't be more excited," said Brian Luallen, CEO of Fair Park First. "It's taken three-and-a-half years to bring us to this point."

At Fair Park an estimated $300 million will fund modernization of the Cotton Bowl, its restrooms, its concession stands and more. And the nearly 100-year-old Centennial Hall and Automobile Building will receive extensive upgrades too.

"We'll also be able to take irreplaceable art that, I kid you not, was soon to fall off the wall without this kind of intervention, and restore this incredible art for future generations," Luallen said.

At a victory party Tuesday night, city leaders celebrated the green light for funding that will include improvements to the Fair Park Band Shell and the Fair Park Coliseum too.

"That's what we're going to do," said Dallas Mayor Eric Johnson. "We're going to make it absolutely world-class and it's going to be something people in our city and visitors to our city are going to be able to enjoy for another hundred years."

As for Fair Park, exhibition hall improvements may come first in time for potential use if the FIFA World Cup comes to DFW in 2026. But Brian Luallen says careful planning will aim to make sure regularly scheduled Fair Park events and festivals are not impacted by the eventual construction projects.

"But very quickly, people are going to see a Fair Park that is vastly improved, that really recognizes and respects the historical significance and preserves that for future generations," Luallen said.

The Dallas City Council voted 14-1 in February to move forward with the plan for a new convention center. The funding would come from bonds that are paid off using an increase in the hotel occupancy tax, or HOT, a way to target tourist dollars instead of increasing taxes on residents.

Johnson and other city leaders noted that the convention center has lost out on 948 events due to structural issues in the last 15 years and say Fair Park is falling apart as well.

The tax increase from 13% to 15% would raise $1.5 to $2 billion for the project, but critics note that there’s still no final price tag on just how much the convention center or improvements to Fair Park could cost.

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