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Arizona Exposition and State Fairgrounds

Catyana Falsetti - 2018 Fall Graduate 

The Arizona Exposition and State Fair (AESF) hosts a Fall event that occupies the grounds for 24 days during October and/or November. The fair is popular with over 1,145,503 attendees in 2016 (Final Report, 2016), but there are unique challenges to amplify the usage of the Fairgrounds during the remaining months of the year.

AESF would like to increase concurrent experiences, expand the number of hosted events during the summer months, and over more activities during the week. A critical usage constraint is the positioning of the buildings within the boundary of the grounds. The buildings are

primarily clustered towards the southern and western edges of the property, which makes directed accessibility to all buildings simultaneously awkward for vendors.

AESF, the State Historic Preservation Oce (SHPO), and Arizona State University (ASU) facilitated a four- day charrette in March 2018 to address various concerns regarding the use of the Fairgrounds and to generate solutions. Attendees included local and state politicians, SHPO personnel, AESF representatives, and ASU faculty, along with local architects, landscape designers, neighborhood residents, and real estate developers. This four-day charrette and case study comparisons of

the Texas State Fair and EXPO New Mexico introduce approaches to overcome policy and design limitations that have inhibited the Arizona Fairgrounds to date.

The results of the charrette and supplementary research findings elucidate significant barriers due to the current funding structure and the state-imposed legislative limits on capital investments and operational funding. Typically, the AESF is authorized to use approximately $12 million in operating costs and $1 million on capital improvements. The agency retains monies generated that exceed the authorized amount and often are swept by the legislature. The budget amount does not take the cost of inaction or other factors into consideration, including the raise in the minimum wage. The inability of AESF to spend more leaves AESF unable to initiate and complete the improvements required for simple upkeep such as properly maintained air-conditioning units, paint, and roof conservation. Is the lack of accessible funds and spending authority is the key factor in the current aesthetic state of the buildings and grounds. AESF highlighted several design concerns including lack of visual interest of the Fairgrounds from the road, general aesthetics, and comfort of the Fairgrounds, and accessibility of different venues from the street so as not to interfere with simultaneous events. Other recommendations embraced allowing concomitant events that would generate more income from space rental.

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