Fair Park Needs a Million Bucks Worth of Work

The Park and Rec board's meeting at the Dallas Zoo today -- appropriate, since the highest-priced item on today's agenda involves the Dallas Aquarium at Fair Park, scheduled to reopen in September as The Children's Aquarium at Fair Park under the privately operated auspices of Dallas Zoo Management Inc. per last year's hand-off from the city. Says the agenda, the city -- which is still on the hook for the redo of the aquarium despite the management agreement with Dallas Zoological Society -- needs to kick in another $961,551 for, among other things, the finish-out of "aquaria exhibits" and other "necessary repairs and renovations."

Only, the briefing doesn't say where the money's coming from. So I called Park and Rec assistant director Willis Winters and asked. And he says it's coming out of a Fair Park contingency fund -- and that not all of it's going to the aquarium. That more-or-less million will be spread around Fair Park: Some of, he says, will go toward making the parking lot in front of the Texas Discovery Gardens wheelchair-accessible. Turns out it's not, according to a recent inspection conducted by the Texas Department of Licensing and Regulation.

And the city needs to repaint and repair the ceiling at the Fair Park Coliseum, about which the city's received numerous complaints, says Winters. "The ceiling in there is horrible-looking," he says, the result of years of concerts and circuses "poking their rigging gear into the insulation." There's a rodeo in there next month, he says, so it needs to get dolled up pronto. (Which reminds me: Nirvana '93!)

The aquarium will get a bulk of the dough, he says, because the city needs to get it done before the opening is four months off. And, initially, the city had hoped to use the original aquarium staff to do exhibit finish-out. "But it became evident it would take a long, long time to do it" using DZM staff, he says. "We agreed to put it into the current contract so it could be done by September." And, well, a few other issues came up because "whenever you're renovating a building that old -- remember, it opened in 1936 -- unforeseen issues arise."

And, hey, while we're on the subject of Fair Park: You do know the O'Jays are playing the Band Shell a week from tomorrow, right? And the Isley Brothers on June 18? About time. And, on June 20: Glen Campbell! Which means only one thing: Best. Song. Ever.