02/27/2008 1:00AM

Relocation of state fair and track under discussion


The relocation of the Nebraska State Fair in Lincoln and its horse racing track was the topic of several hours of hearings and testimony before the Agriculture Committee of the Nebraska legislature on Tuesday.

Presentations for moving the state fair were presented by representatives from Grand Island, who want to relocate the fair to their town, and a Lincoln group known as Vision 2015, which is pushing for the state fair relocation to make way for an expansion by the University of Nebraska to create a technology innovation campus on that property.

State Senator Phillip Erdman, chair of the Ag Committee, opened the session by stating that the decision to move the state fair has not been made. Three bills before the legislature were covered in Tuesday's public meeting.

Bill 861 removes a requirement from state statutes that the fair be held in Lancaster County, where Lincoln is located.

Bill 1044 removes that same requirement and provides for a committee to be formed and to report by the end of this year on an alternate site, and to implement relocation of the fair by Aug. 1, 2012.

Bill 1116 requires much the same with the addition of requiring the university to pay the greater of $30 million or the appraised value of the land the current site is on.

"I don't believe eviction is an option without the funding in hand," Erdman said.

The Ag Committee is charged with seeking an amicable resolution to the issue this session, and has designated Bill 1116 its priority this session.

"By not doing so this year, then it begins all over again next year and the year after that," Erdman said. "The question is, should the state fair be moved?"

The Vision 2015 group supports Bill 1044 and wants to move the fair to a shared location with the Lancaster Events Center in northeast Lincoln. The new location would have a one-mile racetrack.

A move to Grand Island would put the state fair on the same property as Fonner Park and the Heartland Events Center, while racing would remain in Lincoln.

The State Fair Board expressed concerns about the property at Lancaster Events Center being in both a flood way and a flood plain.

"If the fair were to relocate to Grand Island, there would be a [horse racing] track in Lincoln," said vice chairman Tam Allan. "That would be left to others."

Allan's comment indicates State Fair Park is willing to give up its racing license if a move were made.

The Ag Committee is expected to take action next week on what bills to advance before the full legislature.