TYLER, TX (KLTV) - It’s opening day of the East Texas State Fair and the grounds were packed with people all day. There are 22 acres filled with vendors, rides, and zoo animals. As the years have gone by, that amount of space is no longer cutting it.
10 days of carouseling and corn dogs brings in about $12 million of revenue to the city of Tyler according to the president of the East Texas State Fair.
“This is no longer your little bitty county fair that it was 50 years ago,” said East Texas State Fair President John Sykes.
The fair is in its 103rd year. Back in 1912, 75 acres were purchased, and as the city grew, the fairgrounds started to shrink.
“There is no question. Nobody will deny it. Everyone will support it; the fair outgrew these fair grounds a long time ago,” Skyes said.
In the 70s, the fair board agreed to a 50-year lease to stay on this same land, and now in 2018, the grounds have an expiration date of eight years.
“How are we going to get all of those done in eight years? I pray about it all the time. I don’t know,” Sykes said.
As the move out date gets closer, the fair board decided to go ahead and purchase new land, what they are calling “The Park” located just west of Loop 323.
“Because this event is so big, we are looking at a minimum of $10 million, just for infrastructure,” Sykes said.
Therein lies the problem. Sykes said the 240 acres has already been purchased with funds generated by previous fair events. But there’s no money left over once the move actually happens.
“We’ll do it under tents as long as we have water, electricity, sewer, streets, parking, and get those infrastructure items solved and in place and paid for. Watch us work,” Sykes said.
The East Texas State Fair will stay where it is for eight more years. The fair board is hoping to raise the money they need in time before the lease ends. They are determined to not borrow any money from the city.