Fair officials want year-round rides

May 19, 2009 2:23:53 PM PDT
The big Ferris wheel that soars above the State Fair of Texas could one day spin year-round. A plan unveiled Monday would add a roller coaster and other thrill rides to the 20-acre midway at Fair Park in Dallas. By 2012, a small amusement park pitched as a lower-cost rival to nearby Six Flags over Texas could operate well beyond the September-October window of the state fair.

The Dallas Morning News reported Tuesday that expansion costs estimated at $20 million would be paid from profits of upcoming fairs. Last year's fair generated $29.5 million. Officials won't say how much of that covered expenses.

Fair president Errol McCoy said an $11 million thrill ride called the Top of Texas Centennial Tower could be on order within a year through strong fair sales combined with several million dollars already available.

The ride would take as many as 150 people on a snaking path upward to 500 feet, then return them to the ground. It would be named for the 1936 Texas centennial that left behind one of the nation's largest collections of art deco buildings on the state fairgrounds.

If the tower ride is purchased, McKoy said the fair planned to use profits from the 2010 and 2011 fairs to pay for an $8 million roller coaster officials have picked out for what would be called Summer Place Park.

Officials said there is a strong link between the expanded park plan and a new light rail line that will stop at the entrance to Fair Park. The rail line is scheduled for completion in December 2010.

"It is absolutely huge," Craig Holcomb, president of Friends of Fair Park, said of the rail line. "It takes you to the front gate of Fair Park, and with no need to walk a block or anything -- it puts you right there. That is going to cause people to use it."

The three-week state fair has long been associated with the annual Texas-Oklahoma football game at the Cotton Bowl, and officials are trying to add other high-profile games. Texas Tech and Baylor will play during the state fair in 2010.

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