New operator could be running Fair Park by end of the year

The City of Dallas believes it has found an operator for Fair Park that can turn the giant space into a year-round destination for less money that it costs the city to currently maintain the venue.

Dallas has been pouring more than $10 million a year into Fair Park -- just enough to keep its historic art deco buildings from completely crumbling.

A developer and operator is asking the city for $34 million over 10 years to transform Fair Park from desolation to destination. It’s far less than the city would spend for the status quo.

“We think we can do it,” said Peter Sullivan, Spectra general manager.

Spectra is a company that already operates large event venues around the county.

“We've gone in, in a lot of challenging situations,” Sullivan said.

Dallas Parks Board member Jesse Moreno said during a Thursday meeting he was trying to get his head around the claim the potential new developer and operator could do more with less money.

“How do you do that? How do you produce more events draw more people?  How do you have more concerts any activity? Are we mismanaging our current budget?” Moreno said.

Spectra reps said there’s a reason the city would hire them.

“We build our budgets all the time. There is a little bit of a trust me factor, you know who we are, our experience.”

The proposal also underbids the other two applicants vying to operate Fair Park by $50 and $60 million. Bids were solicited after a multi-year process and review to figure out how to improve the venue.

“How are you able to so significantly undercut these other folks by tens of millions of dollars?” said park board member Paul Sims.

Spectra said they're not experienced operators like it is.

If Spectra gains park board and council approval to take control of fair park, the City of Dallas would have a known developer -- Dan Biederman. He’s responsible for creating the beloved Woodall Rodgers deck park.

“There will be pieces that remind people of Klyde Warren, programing, fitness programs, don't want to pre-judge because we always have to start with the neighborhood and ask them what they'd like to see,” Biederman said.

The council is expected to consider the proposal in either August or September. The new operator would take over just 45 days after approval.