$67 million community park, outdated facilities highlighted in Fair Park First annual report

By Dallas Documenters,

October 24, 2023

Public Meeting Briefs

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The latest on Fair Park First’s efforts:

Fair Park First showcased their 2023 annual report to the Park and Recreation Board during the board’s September meeting. The report included the groundbreaking plans for a new community park and budgets for updating facilities.

Why this matters to South Dallas:

Fair Park First has a 20-year city contract to manage Fair Park, a 277-acre Dallas City Park and National Historic Landmark adjacent to the South Dallas neighborhood. After Fair Park First won the contract in 2018, the city gave the private organization a 10-year, $34.6 million grant. The nonprofit is charged with restoring, revitalizing and renewing Fair Park. At the meeting, Fair Park First CEO Brian Luallen stressed the importance of Fair Park’s historical significance.

The Fair Park First report:

Luallen highlighted the $67 million new community park project. The nonprofit has raised $22.5 million, 34% of their total. They plan to break ground on the project once they are at 50% of their fundraising goal.

Luallen said some facilities at Fair Park are not up to date, meaning they cannot meet the requirements for specific events. His examples included fire safety systems that are antiquated and ADA access and onboarding ramps at the Cotton Bowl that can’t be used due to code requirements. 

When discussing funding and partner match programs, Luallen said he wants to fundraise for sidewalks, but donors typically see that as the financial responsibility of the City of Dallas. However, Luallen said the need for improved sidewalks is substantial.

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Luallen elaborated on the amount of missed opportunities at the Cotton Bowl and the Music Hall due to some basic amenities that are available in nearby venues. Fair Park often loses or chooses to opt out of opportunities due to their inability to physically bring in an act logistically.

Fair Park First has plans to update the Cotton Bowl, which includes privately sourced funds to advance the design and concept of the stadium.

Renovating the Cotton Bowl can have downsides:

Luallen said there are downsides to the planned Cotton Bowl improvements: The project would take almost two years to complete, and its closure during renovations would greatly impact their revenue. In addition, the construction would impact many other events and venues.

Board member Daniel Wood commended Fair Park First for its fundraising efforts. He said he’s frustrated that the city has failed to take care of many assets that have needed basic maintenance for generations.

About the Dallas Park and Recreation board:

The Dallas Park and Recreation Board has oversight of the Dallas Park and Recreation Department. 

The 15 members of this policy-making board are appointed and approved by the mayor and Dallas City Council. 

The board has jurisdiction over the control, management and maintenance of the public parks of the city.

Dallas Documenter Karem Montemayor attended the September Park Board public meeting, and this brief emerged from her notes. Click here to read Montemayor’s full notes, and here to learn how you can become a paid Documenter at public meetings.

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