Fair Park to Get a Classic Car Museum! Now, The Trick Will Be Making It Permanent.

While we're on the subject of Fair Park (and when are we not this week?), I'll assume you missed this when we first mentioned it on Christmas Eve: Fair Park's getting a car museum. Or, to be more precise, the Texas Museum of Automotive History.

Just this morning, matter of fact, the city's Park and Rec board OK'd the deal with its organizers, headed by Vintage Racing League founder Stephen Page. Once the city's attorneys and Page's group finalize the contracts, and the city council signs off, Page hopes to begin building out the 55,000-square-foot Grand Place exhibition hall, formerly known as the Women's Building, and moving in some 120 vintage cars within 30 days. (Little-known fact: Grand Place is where the Ford Motor Co. had its exhibit during the Texas Centennial Exposition in 1936.)

Only, one thing: The Texas Museum of Automotive History, a nonprofit that is also supposed to house a "state-of-the-art" car restoration-research library, won't be a permanent installation at Grand Place. Matter of fact, the only way Page could get the city to sign off on the deal was if he agreed to break down the museum and vacate the premises before the State Fair of Texas takes over the hall at the end of the summer. (Score one for Wick Allison.)

According to city docs, the contract with Page's group is only good through July 31. Which is why, even though Page is hoping to start the build-out and move-in process in a matter of weeks -- senior Park and Rec manager Mark Jarrell says he hopes to get Page on the premises "as soon as possible" -- the museum won't officially open till after the State Fair ends on October 17. This, from the Park and Rec's briefing docs:

The short term goal is to establish and develop a Texas Museum of Automotive History in the Grand Place at Fair Park. If proven successful, the long-term goal is to set up a permanent museum at Fair Park.
I asked Page why go to all this trouble to move cars in and out of Grand Place if he doesn't even have a long-term deal with the city and has to scram before the fair starts.

"I have an expression: It's another stitch in the rich tapestry of life," he says. "We'll use this period and the time we'd have to vacate to stage the museum," he says. "We'll organize the cars and displays and build in a temporary fashion. It'll take us six months to rehab Grand Place, assemble the cars and the experience, then take it down. And after the State Fair we'll have a proper opening and operate in there for two years till we can move into larger facility."

Page and city officials say they hope to create a permanent car museum -- with up to 200 vehicles -- somewhere on Fair Park property. Fingers crossed.

"When I came to them and said, 'What about a museum?' they said, 'The timing's perfect,'" Page says of his conversations with Park and Rec officials. "Stars lined up and so forth. Over the years I've been to most of the major car museums, and most are [nonprofit], and there's no reason Dallas shouldn't have a top-10 world-class museum, and we have a tremendous amount of global contacts to help us source cars. We'll work collaboratively with the city. Ultimately, while we don't have all of the details worked out, it's our intention to set aside some of our profitability to help the city with future renovations for a bigger facility after Grand Place."

Page is getting the same deal as Alfredo Hinojosa, who was given the OK today to start booking acts into the Fair Park Band Shell: Page won't have to pay rent on Grand Place, and the city will make its money off concession sales and parking. Park and Rec also OK'd admission fees for the museum: adults will be charged $10; children 3-18, $6; seniors 62 and older; $8; kids under 3, free.

"I've lived in Dallas since 1980," says the native of England of his reasons for wanting to build the museum in Fair Park. "I love being part of this city, and to do something wonderful for the city and for Fair Park, which I have a huge soft spot for, is a dream come true."

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Robert Wilonsky
Contact: Robert Wilonsky