The Utah State Fair is underperforming according to a new report by the Office of the Utah State Auditor. The limited performance audit compared the Utah State Fair with several other state fairs around the country. It specifically focused on similar fairs held in Arizona, Idaho, and New Mexico. David Pulsipher is the performance audit director. He says compared to those three states, Utah’s fair is the most under-attended and highly subsidized.
“It’s the expectation of the legislature that the Utah State Fair operate independently and without a state subsidy," he says. "And we recommend in the audit report that the Utah State Fair Corporation align its costs with its revenues, therefore ceasing the reliance on the state subsidy.”
The legislature has given the fair more than $6.8 million since 2004. Meanwhile, attendance has decreased almost every year since hitting a peak in 2008. Along with pointing out deficiencies the report also made recommendations on how to become more self-sufficient. It suggests that they could contract with a private management group to help increase use of the fairpark during non-fair days, or even relinquish the state fairpark altogether and rent space elsewhere to hold the fair.
The audit also includes a response from Utah State Fair Corporation Executive Director Michael Steele. He says the comparisons made in the report aren’t fair because several of the states mentioned have gambling or horse racetrack facilities at the same site. He also says they recognize that the fairpark should be used more, but that the facilities are old and do not compete well with other commercial venues like the Salt Palace and the South Towne Expo Center.