Alabama State Fair Authority
The Alabama State Fair Authority was a six-person independent authority established as a non-profit agency in 1947 by the Alabama State Legislature, to produce the annual Alabama State Fair and to manage the Alabama State Fairgrounds, which had been purchased from the Alabama State Fair & Exhibit Association by the City of Birmingham a year earlier.
Members of the Authority were originally appointed by the Birmingham City Commission. The city provided no operating funds, but did appropriate some capital funding in the form of low-interest loans to finance physical improvements and the construction of revenue-generating attractions such as the "Kiddieland" amusement park and the Fair Park Pool.
In 1971 the authority leased a 630-acre parcel at the confluence of Five Mile Creek and Tarrant Spring Branch east of Pinson Valley Parkway for a proposed "Fair Park East" amusement park. The project, which had been publicized as early as 1969, was never carried out due to lack of funding.
Also in 1971 the Jim Walter Corporation donated the idle Sloss Furnaces property to the State Fair Authority for possible redevelopment as a museum of industry. The authority solicited proposals from developers, but never secured enough funds to undertake a redevelopment, or even to abate hazards and stabilize the site. Chair Jack Beasley stated in 1975 that simply cleaning and repainting the structure could cost in excess of $100,000 and would be a "waste of money." The group voted to move forward with demolition of the furnaces, but soon faced a backlash from preservation groups. The city commissioned a study of the site's historical significance and voters approved a $3.3 bond issue in 1977 to convert the furnaces into an interpretive museum.
The State Fair Authority backed a $100,000 loan made to the Birmingham Stallions to keep the team operating through the 1985 season. That same year the Authority heard a proposal to move the Continental Basketball Association's Puerto Rico Coquis to Bill Harris Arena, but never reached an agreement.
The State Fair Authority filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy reorganization on June 24, 1994. Finding that the authority was effectively a, "political subdivision or public agency or instrumentality of a State," the U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the Northern District of Alabama changed the filing to a Chapter 9 municipal bankruptcy on June 23, 1995.
The State Fair Authority ceased to exist by 2001. In 2008 Universal Fairs of Cordova, Tennessee began promoting an annual "Alabama State Fair" at Oak Mountain Amphitheater. In 2019 that event was moved to the Birmingham Race Course.
- 1947: Bedford Seale (chair), O. L. Ford, Vincent Townsend, Ervin Jackson, H. S. Whisler, William Spencer
- 1957: Bedford Seale (chair), Ben Reeves, William Spencer, O. L. Ford, Vincent Townsend, Ervin Jackson
- 1959–1962: Bedford Seale (chair), Vincent Townsend, Cooper Green, Claude Lawson, William Spencer, Ben Reeves