Why is Fair Park so deserted? It's a question that has baffled city officials forever, but so far no one has come up with a plan to draw people to the 277 acre fairgrounds in months that don't start with "O."
It's a puzzle no longer, because council member Dwaine Caraway, in a lengthy tangent during this morning's City Council meeting, revealed the reason: The roof of the Fair Park Coliseum.
Caraway said he there just this past weekend for the Juneteenth rodeo, and people inside had to fan themselves to keep cool. "There's no reason for people to be fannin'," he said. The air conditioning inside works fine, he said. During the State Fair, you have to put a jacket on it's so cold. No, the problem is the roof. "I don't know why we can't get the roof painted. It is the ugliest roof of United States of America."
"I've asked for it since the '90s. I've just asked you to do what you did in the automobile building. Just get the wire from Lowe's or Home Depot, you stretch the wire from one end to the other end, you go to Cloth World and you get some cloth and you string it across. You string it across, and it doesn't cost $10,000 to do this and you can hide the roof, the ugly roof."
The roof is so ugly, in fact, that it drives potential visitors -- and their money -- away from Fair Park and away from Dallas.
"It's just a touch-up that we have to do so that when conventions come to town, then they might want to do a barbecue in the coliseum. It has that type of ambiance, but when planners come to town and [see the coliseum they go elsewhere]. ... That's like a person with bad credit. It goes all around the country. The coliseum is off the list."
Paul Dyer, director of the city's park department, acknowledged that it is "not a pretty roof," but said it would take hundreds of thousands of dollars to fix. Covering the inside with drapes would be more affordable, somewhere in the tens of thousands of dollars, but that's money the cash-strapped department has earmarked for pressing issues at park facilities, like plumbing and structural issues.
Councilwoman Carolyn Davis picked up the thread. "I'm tired of this roof conversation coming up in my district." Why, she asked Dyer and City Manager Mary Suhm, has it not been addressed before?
Dyer and Suhm reiterated the tight budget and mentioned the $85,000 spent on structural repairs on the roof several years ago, but that didn't quite cut it.
"Work with Mr. Dyer to find some way to fix this problem," Davis told Suhm. To which Suhm started to object, then replied with a terse "OK."