Okla. State Fair Officials Gather Market Research on Public's Opinion of Renovation Plans

Article excerpt

Though it looks much like an ordinary display booth at the Oklahoma State Fair, it's really market research. Fair officials are gathering the public's opinion of preliminary designs for a $100 million renovation of the fairgrounds - a project state fair officials say makes good economic sense.

"We wanted to show a sufficient number of people what's going on," said Skip Wagner, president and general manager of the Oklahoma State Fair. Officials would like to garner public support for the renovation, which would be paid for by means of an increase in Oklahoma City's hotel-motel tax. An exhibit at the fair targets the intended market.

The undertaking posed some challenges, however. An architect for the renovation project wasn't chosen until mid-August, leaving little more than three weeks to get an exhibit assembled. The display includes the names of the three firms involved in the renovation: Frankfurt-Short-Bruza Associates has been named as the architect, gh2 Gralla Architects as the equestrian architect, and Howard Fairbairn Site Design as landscape architect. All are local firms.

The exhibit includes a two-minute video presentation created by Frankfurt-Short-Bruza, which provides a virtual tour of what the fairgrounds could look like after a renovation. "We wanted it to not have so much definition that people think it's a done deal, but enough to give an idea of what it could look like," said Wagner.

It was also a challenge to balance the need to convey how attractive the renovation could be, while keeping it "realistic," said Wagner. "The last thing we want to do is give people ideas we won't be able to meet," he said.

The computer-generated film appears to take the viewer around and over the fairgrounds, showing what each of the buildings could look like with the aid of some cosmetic changes and new facades. All of the buildings would be joined by a common visual theme, a style Wagner described as "Frank Lloyd Wright meets Oklahoma."

The colorful, 1960s-era styles that prevail now would be replaced with natural colors and materials such as rock and brick, with a Western Heritage feel. The names of the buildings would also be changed to reflect Oklahoma's heritage.

One end of the building which houses the exhibit has undergone a transformation, serving as a huge before-and-after example. While one end of the 28,800-square-foot Kitchens of America building still sports psychedelic stripes, the other end has been transformed into the new Centennial building. The updated end is faced with a material that looks like off-white concrete, with brick and stone accents.

A large map of the fairgrounds is also included in the display. A semi-transparent rendering of the proposed new layout overlays a map of the fairgrounds as they are today, allowing fair-goers to more clearly visualize what changes will be made and where.

The display also attempts to provide the public with the "big picture" by means of two lists of the fairgrounds' biggest attractions throughout the year. Estimated attendance and economic impact are listed for the eight most popular shows held at the fairgrounds each year (such as Affair of the Heart and the Oklahoma Youth Expo), as well as a list of the top horse shows that regularly use the fairgrounds for their events.

The Oklahoma State Fair only accounts for a little more than 600 of the 3,000 event days - a count of how many buildings are used and for how many days - scheduled at the fairgrounds yearly. While the fair typically generates an economic impact of about $100 million per year, horse shows bring in $90 million, and other events and concerts generate $20 million. …

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