Metro fair board approves lease allowing state fair to return, for now

Tuesday, February 26, 2013 at 12:24pm

The fair goes on for now, after the Metro Board of Fair Commissioners gave final approval Tuesday morning to the terms of a lease agreement for the 2013 Tennessee State Fair.

The board ratified an agreement on terms for the 2013 fair that had been reached in principle between the board, which oversees the Metro-owned state fairgrounds, and the Tennessee State Fair Association that was selected by a new state commission to operate the event.

In addition to those terms, the TSFA had offered to commit to a three-year lease, contingent upon the nonprofit receiving subsequent contracts from the state to run the fair in 2014 and 2015. However, in a separate vote, the fair board decided against a multi-year contract, after several members expressed concerns about locking in a multi-year deal without further consideration.

“We’re pleased that we can seriously lower our heads for the 2013 fair,” said TSFA chairman John Rose. “Our board’s hope of course was that we could have a longer planning horizon, so we’re disappointed in that. Part of the reason that we agreed to the terms that they set forth was that we felt like if we did that it would show overwhelmingly good faith on our part to try to invest in these grounds. But it’s difficult to plan beyond the horizon for what you know you’re going to be able to do. So that’s going to continue to be a deterrent on the success of the fair.”

Fair board chairman Ned Horton and board member Kenny Byrd both favored the multi-year deal, and suggested to the board that putting an end to the annual negotiations would allow the board to focus on improving the fair, as well as other matters significant to the success of the fairgrounds. But other board members were uneasy with making a three-year commitment without further examination of the fairgrounds financial situation, as well as that of the TSFA. They did indicate a willingness to revisit the possibility before next year though.

“I think it makes sense to start having long-term plans,” said Horton. “This turning around every year is not doing anybody any good. But there are things weighing in the balance here. Other entities involved. The Metro Council is reviewing a master plan scenario, the state and the state commission obviously have a say in what happens with the state fair, so we’re going to be waiting on them for their 2014 information. So, I guess some of the board members didn’t feel comfortable going beyond this year.”

Under the terms of the agreement, for 2013, the TSFA commits to a $50,000 guaranteed advance, and will give Metro $2.25 per ticket sold for the first 50,000 tickets, and $3.75 per ticket sold after that. They will also pay Metro $1.00 for every free ticket distributed, with a limit of 3,500 tickets.

Based on the attendance at the 2012 fair, according to the TSFA, those terms would result in $179,268.75 in revenue for Metro, a 65 percent increase from last year.

“I think they’ve improved dramatically,” Horton said of the terms, which were hammered out after months of sputtering negotiations between the two sides. “If they bring the attendance that they could and should bring, we have part of the upside there. So that’s a good situation to be in.”

The 2013 state fair is scheduled for Sept. 6-15 at the Tennessee State Fairgrounds.

3 Comments on this post:

By: NewYorker1 on 2/26/13 at 4:13

WOW!!! People actually go to this? Ew! Low class.

By: Left-of-Local on 2/27/13 at 9:38

Well. They would like you to THINK people go to it, but it has been in abysmal decline for a decade. It doesn't belong in a city space. It should be moved to a more rural area, and really be revamped to be top-class, but poised where people actually give a damn.

By: jonw on 2/27/13 at 11:43

I was involved in State, Regional, & National Fairs from Wisconsin to Alabama for many years. I remember when the Tennessee State fair was well managed & attracted exhibitors from a wide area. I also watched it slowly decline, as management became more based on politics than based on expertise.
Most Fairs have their plans well under way in Jan. & Feb. for that year.
Also, without the opportunity for long-term planning it is difficult for a Fair to progress.