Alabama State Fairgrounds

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The Alabama State Fairgrounds are located in West End, adjacent to the Five Points West shopping area. Birmingham International Raceway is located inside the gates of the Fairgrounds. In addition to the racetrack (which also hosts high school football games), there is a go-kart track and batting cages on the premises, though both are inactive at present. The parking lot has a capacity of 7,500 cars.

The State Fair Arena and Exposition Building cover a combined total of 110,000 square feet. The 117-acre fairgrounds were acquired by the City of Birmingham in 1947.

For many years, the grounds were home to the Alabama State Fair. The statue of Vulcan, which is now a Birmingham landmark atop Red Mountain, was displayed at the Fairgrounds after it was brought home from the 1904 St. Louis World's Fair.

The fairgrounds was purchased by the City of Birmingham in the late 1940s and placed under the administration of a seven-member Alabama State Fair Authority, appointed by the Birmingham City Commission. One of their first projects was the popular Kiddieland amusement park which opened in 1948 and continued to operate, although in an increasingly dilapidated condition, into the 1980s.

The state fair discontinued regular use of the facility because of poor attendance and high crime in the adjacent neighborhood. The Alabama State Fair Authority went bankrupt, and was dissolved sometime around the year 2001. No state fair has been held on a regular basis since. (The "Alabama National Fair" in Montgomery and another carnival called the "Alabama State Fair" in Pelham, are unrelated.)

Contents

[edit] Birmingham International Raceway

The raceway grandstands in January 2009
The raceway grandstands in January 2009

A feature of the fairgrounds was the Birmingham International Raceway which originated as a 1-mile clay oval horse track in 1906. An 8,000-seat grandstand was constructed in 1925 and the track, later reduced to 5/8ths of a mile, has hosted innumerable automobile races, as well as harness races, concerts, shows and football games. The grandstands were demolished in 2009 as part of the redevelopment of Fair Park.

[edit] State Fair Arena

Main article: State Fair Arena

The W. F. "Bill" Harris State Fair Arena is a 6,000-seat multipurpose indoor arena located at the Fairgrounds. The arena is used primarily for basketball, but also hosts concerts and other events.

[edit] Engine No. 4018

Main article: Engine No. 4018

The St Louis & San Francisco Railway's Engine No. 4018, a steam locomotive, went on display under a metal shed soon after it retired from service in 1952. It was relocated to Sloss Furnaces in 2009.

[edit] Redevelopment proposals

In 1969 the Authority proposed a Fair Park East on a 630-acre site near Jefferson State Junior College in Eastern Jefferson County.

A 1987 proposal for redeveloping Fair Park was assembled by city officials with assistance from Barbour Cooper & Partners. The proposal recommended demolishing the raceway and adding an exhibition building, realigning Avenue W, building an indoor swimming pool or track & field facility, building an artificial lake and providing new parking areas. Jim Wilson, owner of the adjoining Five Points West Shopping Mall and Debbie Olmstead, president of the mall's merchants association, expressed full support for the proposal.

Shortly after taking office in November 2007 Birmingham Mayor Larry Langford proposed a large-scale redevelopment of Fair Park which would combine athletic facilities with residential, retail and entertainment facilities. The centerpiece of the redevelopment would be indoor track and swimming facilities. On April 8, 2008 the Birmingham City Council approved the use of $48 million in city funds to initiate construction.

On June 19, 2008, Langford proposed moving the race track to a site in northwest Birmingham off of Daniel Payne Drive, stating that it didn't fit into Fair Park's redevelopment plan. Demolition of the grandstand began on January 31, 2009.

An August 2009 proposal from Fair Park Real Estate Partners to develop 10 acres of the park as a retail center anchored by CVS Pharmacy and Aldi was tabled by the Council's Administration, Budget and Finance Committee until the developers could produce a comprehensive plan for the site.

[edit] References

  • Faulk, Kent (February 25, 1987) "New vigor for western area: City plans to revitalize Fair Park, Five Points" Birmingham News
  • Alabama State Fairgrounds. (2007, July 10). In Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Retrieved 02:48, October 30, 2007 [1]
  • Bryant, Joseph D. (April 5, 2008) "Fair Park development includes Marriott, Foot Locker, grocery, Birmingham mayor says." Birmingham News
  • Bryant, Joseph D. (April 8, 2008) "Birmingham council OKs Fair Park plans." Birmingham News
  • Bryant, Joseph D. (June 20, 2008) "Mayor proposes moving Birmingham International Raceway from Fair Park, providing $1 million to help build new track." Birmingham News
  • Bryant, Joseph D. (January 31, 2009) "Groundbreaking gets under way at Birmingham's Fair Park." Birmingham News
  • Bryant, Joseph D. (August 18, 2009) "Birmingham council committee delays Fair Park developer pitch; asks for more details." Birmingham News

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