Little Rock leaders meet with State Fair GM

Little Rock leaders meet with State Fair GM

Central Arkansas communities have four days left to get state fair proposals in by Tuesday's deadline.
Central Arkansas communities have four days left to get state fair proposals in by Tuesday's deadline.

Friday, the Arkansas State Fair's general manager sat down for the first time with State Senator Joyce Elliott from Little Rock to talk about the fair's future and keeping it right where it is.

"We have not said we're gonna move and as a matter of fact, when it gets right down to it, we gotta pay for it," says GM Ralph Shoptaw.

The cost for the Arkansas State Fair to stay put, according to Little Rock Mayor Mark Stodola, is 30 to 40-million dollars.  That’s what it would take to rehab old buildings and expand it beyond its borders.

But, the fair also brings big bucks to the capital city, and Senator Elliott's reasons for wanting the fair to stay in her district are not just economic.  "It's a venue.  It's a destination for kids and parents all over this state," says Elliott. 

"It's been such a part of the neighborhood.  I'm not one for maintaining traditions when they have outgrown themselves, that's not my point.  But I am very distressed over the possibility of this fair being moved," she added.

“We want to make sure that we're doing everything we can to make the fair as good as it can be where it is, and we're all open minded individuals who want to do the right thing," says Elliott.

One of the biggest possible roadblocks Little Rock is up against are- the train tracks.  There is more land to expand, but it's blocked by two sets of tracks.

"That leaves us with one-hundred acres that we can operate on, and the average size of the state fair in the United States is 356 acres," explains Shoptaw. 

So, the fair's executive board called for proposals from communities within 35 miles of the fair grounds.  "We're totally transparent.  We just want to see what all the options are.  We never tried to hide anything.  We just wanted to see what our other options were," said Shoptaw Friday.

Senator Elliott just wants to make sure Little Rock is one of them.

"Are you confident that the city has a good shot at keeping the fair?" asked FOX16’s Kelly Dudzik.

"I am confident, but I'm also confident it means a lot of work and commitment on the part of not just legislators, but the citizens of Little Rock.  It's important to this city, it's important to the state," she responded.

The cost to move the fair grounds is estimated at 150-million dollars.

So far, Saline County, Jacksonville, and Carlisle are submitting proposals.  Cabot and North Little rock have also expressed interest.

This year's state fair starts October 9. 

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