More than two years of debate over the management of Fair Park concluded Wednesday when the Dallas City Council voted unanimously to hand over the day to day operations to a private firm and non profit.
Fair Park First is the non-profit that will oversee the operation with Comcast owned Spectra handling the operations of the venue.
The 277-acre city owned entity is best known for three weeks in October, but the city wants to attract events beyond The State Fair of Texas.
Fair Park First told council members on Wednesday that it would have a park with ample green space and amenities that the South Dallas community around Fair Park could enjoy within walking distance.
Ken Smith is president of Revitalize South Dallas Coalition. Born and raised in the neighborhoods around Fair Park, he says it used to be a welcoming magnet for the community and schools. However when the city worked to expand parking lots around the venue in the 1970's, the disconnect with the neighborhood took hold.
"It felt like ours. Over time it felt like a vacated fortress so now we have an opportunity to make it the gathering place for all of Dallas and for South Dallas," Smith said.
The vote comes two years after the city was poised to hand over Fair Park to a private venture without going through a competitive bid process.
After the bid process began in early 2017, the Fair Park First bid was selected for $34.6 million for the first 10 years of a 20-year management agreement. The agreement also allows for two 5-year extensions.
Before the unanimous vote, Fair Park First told council that funding is not in place to build an actual park inside Fair Park and that likely private funds would need to be raised.
Dallas mayor Mike Rawlings said he's enthusiastic to get to this point, but that much more needs to happen to turn Fair Park into a welcoming destination year round.
"“I am concerned about this park," Rawlings said. "I mean we can wear all the t-shirts we want and talk all the talk we want but until we get a park we got a problem.”