Fair Board Buys Simulcast Facility

Tuesday, December 18th 2007, 4:20 pm
By: News On 6

The Tulsa County Fair Board's decision to buy out one of its long-term tenants creates controversy. News On 6 anchor Scott Thompson reports the Tulsa County Fair Board voted on Monday to buy the simulcast racing facility, Fair Meadows. The decision is drawing criticism from one former long-term tenant and one of the fair board members.

"I think it's ridiculous. I think it's a horrible waste of taxpayer money,” said Robby Bell, president of Bell’s Amusement Park.

Bell is still bitter that the fair board refused to give Bell's Amusement Park a new lease last year, forcing the 56-year-old park to pack up and leave. He says the fair board decision to spend $ 3 million to buy out the simulcast facility adds insult to injury.

"We will have to spend about $5 million to replace the infrastructure that we had to leave behind if we are fortunate to get Bell's up and operating again. And, it's just a horrible waste and I think it's incredibly unfair, absolutely,” added Robby Bell.

Bell’s position is getting support from an unlikely source.

"If we purchase one out, then we should have looked at doing that to the other,” said Tulsa County Fair Board Chairman Randi Miller.

The fair board’s Randi Miller is the only member of the body to vote against the simulcast purchase. She says the simulcast facility has been losing money for years and doesn't think that will change. But, she also says the deal just isn't fair.

"You need to treat them both fairly, and I did. In my opinion, I handled the simulcast facility the same way that Bell's was handled,” said Randi Miller.

County Commissioner Fred Perry says it's not the board's job to be consistent with tenants. It's to do what's best for the fairgrounds. He says the board's purchase of the simulcast facility is a good deal for many reasons.

"Our controller and CEO has calculated that the building would basically pay for itself at the $3 million figure. The building would basically pay for itself in eight and half or nine years,” said fair board member Fred Perry.

The simulcast facility is owned by Tulsa businessman Ralph Jones, who was granted a 30-year lease back in 1997. Jones also owns the only hotel on the fairgrounds. He did not return calls from The News On 6 asking for an interview.

Watch the video: Fair Board Criticized For Purchase