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Steve Lackmeyer fondly remembers when the State Fairgrounds were cool

10:34 AM EST on November 9, 2021

Strange times are still afoot at The Oklahoman.

Over the weekend, the paper's new woke out-of-state corporate ownership gave Steve Lackmeyer permission to do something that was once deemed unthinkable – call into question the decision making of the city's Ruling Class and OKC Chamber of Commerce!

In this Sunday's paper, Steve took a nostalgic look back at the old State Fairgrounds, and in particular, the Ruling Class' long, ambitious plan to flip the place from a quirky destination full of culture and character into the sterile, lifeless, revenue-generating horse show complex it is today.

Via The Oklahoman:

After turning around financial losses at the Oklahoma City fairgrounds, a newcomer to the operation, Skip Wagner, launched a master plan that would include new entrances, paved parking, new livestock and equine venues and elimination of the State Fair Speedway.

That was 20 years ago, and the plan was met with fierce opposition by racing enthusiasts and others not keen with changing a fairgrounds home to so many memories. Wagner lasted only three years as president of the state fair, yet two decades later, for better or for worse, a transformation of the fairgrounds has become a reality.

Back in the olden days of The Oklahoman, using the ambiguous phrase "for better or for worse" while describing a Ruling Class development project would have been enough to get Steve tossed into the Bricktown Canal. Now it gets him 1,500 additional words and the front cover! You really have to wonder how long before the OKC Chamber of Commerce convinces Larry Nichols, Harold Hamm or the Loves family to purchase the paper, and put it back under right-wing control. They can't be pleased with this new style of reporting that takes a look into things they would rather everyone ignore.

In his piece, Steve spent a lot of time talking about the old exhibits at the fairgrounds. If you ever rode the monorail, went to a concert at the TNT building, or got bruised and battered while trying to snag a foul ball on the hill at All Sports Stadium, you'll appreciate it.

The Space Needle and monorail featured prominently in state fair promotions disappeared as nature, time and an end to upkeep led to their demise. The historic Goodholm Mansion was sold to a house mover who relocated it his home in Choctaw. The buyer died, and his family chose to destroy the home rather than sell it.

Other favorites, notably the State Fair Speedway where locals raced cars for decades, were torn down to make way for paved parking and investment in hosting equine events. A visitor arriving in 2021 for the first time in 20 years might not recognize what they see or even know how to get around without landmarks like the Space Needle, the oil derrick clock tower, the B-52 Plaza, the grandstand and the storm-destroyed Spirit of ’76 Arch.

Although not as staggering, the removal of all the cool stuff at the fairgrounds is reminiscent of the I.M. Pei plan that destroyed all the history and culture in Downtown OKC. Maybe when they're done with new construction, they can put a little model of what the State Fairgrounds used to look like in one of the new horse show buildings so future generations can appreciate it.

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