Kansas State Fair’s interim fair manager, Bob Moeder, was in Topeka Tuesday meeting with legislators regarding a new revenue stream from sales tax collected at the fair.
A day after House Bill 2790 was introduced in the Statehouse, a bill that would open the door for the Kansas State Fair to leave Hutchinson, Moeder overheard someone at breakfast say, “Who would want to go to Hutchinson anyway; we just need to move the State Fair to Johnson County.”
Moeder noted an Oxford Economics study on general tourism spending that shows a $42 million benefit to Hutchinson and a surrounding 60-mile radius; further out it’s $66 million, which totals $108 million in tourism dollars for the state throughout the year.
Hutchinson would lose those tourism dollars if the fair was hosted in another city.
“Sometimes people don’t know what they have until they are going to lose it,” Moeder said.
Now as fair board members walk the halls of the capitol asking state representatives for money the response has been why isn’t the fair board asking Hutchinson and Reno County to do more?
“I can tell you we have been here trying to get our sales tax back that we generate with the fair. A lot of questions have been asked why isn’t Hutchinson waiving the stormwater fees? Why isn’t the Convention and Visitors Bureau doing more?” Moeder said.
Moeder said they want the $1.7 million the state owes the fair and has agreed to pay. If they don’t get that money, Moeder said they want the $420,000 they annually generate in sales tax returned. He said it would only be put into the much needed refurbishing of the Kansas Bison and the Expo Building.
It would be an incentive for the State Fair to grow and bringing in more sales tax to put back in the properties, Moeder said.
Any other city privy to having the State Fair would be doing what they could to save it, he said.
In 1996 when the State Fair’s master plan was introduced the city and county agreed to support the project by contributing $3 million. Meanwhile, there has been an economic benefit to the community for the past 22 years having the Fair in Hutchinson, Moeder said.
However, Moeder said talking about the past does not address what it takes to make the Kansas State Fair the best it can be. The city, county, and State Fair need to sit down and work together for the long term interest of Hutchinson and the state.
Meanwhile, Moeder has heard rumblings regarding the new location of the American Royal, in direct competition to the State Fair. The American Royal is moving from Missouri to a location near Kansas Speedway would consist of multiple buildings. The estimated $160-million complex would host agricultural and educational events throughout the year. The Kansas State Fair hosts similar events throughout the year.
Secretary of Agriculture Jackie McClasky, who is also a fair board member, said in a statement she didn’t have enough information to speak on House Bill 2790 at this time.