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Blaming City, Museum of Automotive History Pulls Out of Fair Park. City Says: Not Its Fault.

Stephen Page in March 2011, when he and the city were hoping the Texas Museum of Automotive History were heading for a long-term commitment
Stephen Page in March 2011, when he and the city were hoping the Texas Museum of Automotive History were heading for a long-term commitment

One year ago, or close enough, Stephen Page gave us a tour of his Texas Museum of Automotive History in Grand Place at Fair Park -- its temporary home, we were told, but an appropriate one, given the space's estimable past as the site where the Ford Motor Co. had its exhibit during the Texas Centennial Exposition in 1936. Last March, Page and city officials said they hoped the car museum would drive into its new space, the Museum of Nature & Science, once it decamped for its new digs on Woodall Rodgers. But, no, says Page tonight. That's not going to happen. As of July, he says, the Texas Museum of Automotive History will be history.

"Despite our best efforts, the City did not honor its promise to legally acknowledge that we were the replacement tenants for the Science Museum Building," he writes in an email that accompanies the press release that follows. "That promise was the basis for our substantial and successful effort to establish the Texas Museum of Automotive History in Fair Park. As provided for in our current lease, we will vacate the Grand Place Building to accommodate the State Fair on July 31st, 2012. In the interim period, we will operate the Museum."

Daniel Huerta, executive general manager of Fair Park, says tonight that he and Park and Recreation Director Paul Dyer met with Page last week about the move to the Museum of Nature & Science. Says Huerta, Page has long been itching to get the city to commit, on paper, to letting the automotive museum take over the Museum of Nature & Science. But Huerta says Park and Rec's worried about whether that's even doable, given the fact Page's exhibit's "only drew 30,000 people this year."

"We want to make sure what goes in there is good for the park," Huerta tells Unfair Park. "We love having the museum, but we wanted to know: How will you staff a building that size? Especially given the attendance. Those are the things we wanted him to address in the business plan and any future growth plan. We wanted a business plan to show they are indeed serious and a viable organization and a long-term fit for the building. That's where we left it. And he said, 'I'm just gonna shut it down.'"



Huerta says Page "always knew" the museum was on a short-term lease, and that Fair Park didn't have any permanent facilities available. "And they were amenable to that," Huerta says, "since they could drive the cars in and out. But he doesn't want to do that. But there's another faction within that organization that wants to stay in Grand Place and grow it slowly." Matter of fact, Huerta and Dyler refer several times to "internal strife" and "splinter factions" within the museum's 501(c)(3), and hints a spin-off group within the TMAH may want to reopen a car museum in the same space after this year's State Fair of Texas.

Dyer reminds tonight that the museum didn't pay rent during its run there. The city viewed it as "a potential attraction," he says, but wanted to make sure it was a viable one too.

"And they did a great job, but Stephen wanted a long-term commitment, and we couldn't give it to him," says the head of Park and Rec. "We haven't gotten away from our commitment to the science museum yet: As long as they're in the building, they have the building. We want viable, dynamic attractions at Fair Park, and this museum has the chance to do that if it has the right funding. But keep in mind, the science museum's also an old building that needs a lot of renovation, and I'm not sure they have that level of funding to deal with that."

Well, then -- what about The Women's Museum, which is now in need of a tenant? Seems that'd be the perfect spot, given its wide-open floor plan.

"They didn't request that space," Dyer says. "They wanted to establish a charter mechanics school, and thought the science museum would be a better fit for that. We mentioned that building, but it never did pique their interest." (Incidentally, Dyer says at least two organizations are eying The Women's Museum.)

I did talk to Page a little while ago, and he calls this "a very sad state of affairs." But he would prefer the scathing press release he sent tonight speak for itself, for now, so it does below. And in it, Page makes a point that's not entirely unfamiliar:

The City's requirement that tenants vacate the majority of the buildings in Fair Park during the State Fair is the principal reason for Fair Park's ongoing decline.

We strongly believe that for Fair Park to fulfill its destiny and become a viable, commercially successful, cultural and social center, the buildings that comprise Fair Park need to be leased year round to permanent tenants. The State Fair of Texas should operate its vendor attractions from temporary buildings and air conditioned tents.

We recommend that the City closely examine San Diego's Balboa Park and learn from their experiences that transformed a 1,400 acre area with nearly identical issues to Fair Park, into a thriving, integral part of the San Diego's recreational and cultural fabric.

Seems the car museum will be out of Fair Park before the train museum .

The Texas Museum of Automotive History (TMAH) to close in Fair Park, Dallas, Texas

"It is with great sadness that I announce that the Texas Museum of Automotive History will close in Fair Park," states Stephen Page, Chairman & CEO, Texas Museum of Automotive History. "We are leaving Fair Park at the end of our current lease period in July because the Park Board and the City have failed to provide written confirmation that the Texas Museum of Automotive History is the replacement tenant for the Science Museum Building."

At the start of the Texas Museum of Automotive History's development journey in 2009, we were assured by the Park Board that if we successfully opened and operated the Texas Museum of Automotive History in a temporary building in Fair Park (The Grand Place Building) for three years, the City would provide us with written confirmation that we were the replacement tenant for the Museum of Nature and Science's Science Museum Building (upon their relocation to their new building in downtown Dallas, Q1, 2013).

Without the City's legally binding "permanent building" commitment, we feel it is no longer appropriate to raise funds to operate the Museum and prepare for the move into a permanent Fair Park location.

This permanent building assurance given to us by the Park Board in 2009 was the basis of long hours, sweat equity and the commitment of significant personal and corporate financial resources that were made to successfully establish and operate the Texas Museum of Automotive History in Fair Park.

Since 2009, we have made significant progress. Our accomplishments include:

- Raised private donations to successfully build, open (November 20th, 2010) and operate the Museum.
- Achieved 501(c)3 status with the IRS.
- United the DFW and Texas Collector Car community and coordinated the display of 100+ cars valued at $30+ million.
- Achieved 30,000+ visitors to the Museum in our first full year of operation (2011).
- Built a world-class museum display, showcasing the inter-development of race cars and commercial cars from 1901 (when racing started in Fair Park) to 1984, (when Fair Park staged the 1984 F1 Grand Prix).
- Built a world-class Social Media presence that enhanced the visibility of Fair Park and the City of Dallas globally
- Achieved recognition by the DFW Chapter of Meeting Planners International as the 2nd best place in DFW to stage a corporate event, (Dallas Cowboys Stadium was 1st). - Developed a Texas Museum of Automotive History based Restoration Factory Program (based on the highly successful First Tee Program - www.thefirsttee.org) to teach life and work skills to at risk young men and women, 15-18.
- Identified 400 at-risk young men and women within seven DISD "Automotive Programs" that would benefit from participation in a fully developed Texas Museum of Automotive History based Restoration Factory Program, staged in the existing Science Museum Building Charter School facility.
- Last, we sourced a $20+ million (replacement cost) Centrifuge that would have provided a world-class interactive experience for Texas Museum of Automotive History visitors in the Science Museum Building had we been allowed to assume tenancy of the Science Museum Building. This system previously generated $1+ million annually for its operators.

As stated multiple times in correspondence to Mayor Mike Rawlings, Park Board Director Paul Dyer and in meetings with Park Board and City officials during the last twelve months, without a long term Fair Park building commitment for the Texas Museum of Automotive History from the City, we are unable to raise private donations from corporations and individuals, vital to the ongoing success of the Museum.

Unfortunately, since his election, Mayor Rawlings has refused to meet with us to discuss the issuance of a letter from the City, stating that the Texas Museum of Automotive History is the replacement tenant (subject to Board Development and Fundraising conditions) for the Science Museum Building when it is vacated in Q1, 2013.

Our current six month renewable Grand Place Building lease requires that we vacate the Grand Place Building to accommodate the State Fair, August to October each year. This mandatory requirement to abandon our business premises for three months each year kills the Museum's Event Business and our community awareness momentum.

The City's requirement that tenants vacate the majority of the buildings in Fair Park during the State Fair is the principal reason for Fair Park's ongoing decline.

We strongly believe that for Fair Park to fulfill its destiny and become a viable, commercially successful, cultural and social center, the buildings that comprise Fair Park need to be leased year round to permanent tenants. The State Fair of Texas should operate its vendor attractions from temporary buildings and air conditioned tents.

We recommend that the City closely examine San Diego's Balboa Park and learn from their experiences that transformed a 1,400 acre area with nearly identical issues to Fair Park, into a thriving, integral part of the San Diego's recreational and cultural fabric. In light of the City's inability to provide us with written assurance that we could locate the Museum permanently in a Fair Park building, we think it best that we close the Museum and return the cars to their respective owners at the end of our current Grand Place Building lease term July 31st, 2012.

We are grateful to the Park Board for granting us the opportunity of building and operating the Texas Museum of Automotive History in glorious Fair Park. We are very disappointed that they have not honored their promise to provide us a permanent home in Fair Park.

At this juncture, the only viable option to stave off the Museum's withdrawal from Fair Park is for the City to provide a guaranteed lease for the Science Museum Building with a Certificate of Occupancy. The exact terms of the lease are open to discussion.

We want to personally thank the many individuals that supported our efforts:

- Former Mayor, Tom Leppert
- Paul Dyer and the Park Board
- Daniel Huerta, General Manager of Fair Park and his Staff.
- Sam Pack, Dr. Harvey Carter and the 43 Texas Museum of Automotive History car collectors that shared their vehicles with the Museum and the public.
- George Reeves, for contributing warehouse space and financial support.
- Automotive Dealers to include Sam Pack Ford, Aston Martin, Park Place Motors, Subaru, Collins Jeep and the 170 Corporate Members of the DFW New Car Dealers Association.
- Weil, Gotshal and Manges for their 501(c)3 legal support.
- Montgomery, Coscia & Greilich for their accounting support.
- Numerous corporate and personal donors that we will thank individually.
- The Automotive Program Students from the W. H. Adamson High School and Kenny Cotton, the Teacher that developed the DISD Automotive Program.
- Eric Allen for his help in co-authoring the Four Year Texas Museum of Automotive History Restoration Factory Program course-ware.
- Pat Carmichael, David Kozack, Bryan Trubey and HKS for their architectural and Texas Museum of Automotive History logo design support.
- Culinary Arts Catering and the multiple vendors and individuals that contributed time and services to our Grand Opening Art Deco Ball.
- Johnny Rutherford and Scott Murray for emceeing our Grand Opening Art Deco Ball.
- All the Texas Museum of Automotive History donors and supporters, including the 3,000+ Friends of the Museum.

In particular, we want to recognize the significant contributions of Bill Sechrest and Jeff Howle, Texas Museum of Automotive History Board Directors.


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