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Fairplex plan outlines low event prices, green belt, other changes to draw more locals

PAMONA, CA - SEPTEMBER 2, 2016: The parade going though the L.A. County Fair at Fairplex in Pamona,
A parade wends though the L.A. County Fair at Fairplex in Pomona on Sept. 2, 2016.
(Francine Orr / Los Angeles Times)

In hopes of boosting attendance and improving neighborhood relations, the home of the Los Angeles County Fair has released a strategic plan promising lower entrance prices, more music and food events and a green belt with a bike path, among other changes.

The 58-page strategic plan, released Friday, outlines more than a dozen short- and long-term projects to boost the popularity of the Fairplex in Pomona and make the county-owned facility a regional hub for food, music and job training. Another goal is to fix traffic congestion problems that annoy neighbors during big events at the Fairplex.

“This lays out a vision for the community resource we want to be for the next 100 years,” said Miguel Santana, who took over as chief executive of the Fairplex last year.

Santana was tasked with bringing the kind of budget expertise he showed as Los Angeles’ city administrative officer to the troubled Los Angeles County Fair Assn., the nonprofit corporation that stages the annual fair and runs other enterprises on the taxpayer-owned fairgrounds in Pomona.

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The nonprofit has operated in the red since 2010, according to reports filed with the Internal Revenue Service. The deficit has been shrinking, however, with the most recent report showing a $1.7-million deficit in 2016, down from $2.1 million in 2015 and $3.4 million in 2014.

Santana tried to boost attendance in the 2017 season by injecting the annual fair with local Latino flavor, such as booking home-grown bands and displaying art from Latino artists. But attendance dropped nearly 7% last year to 1.23 million visitors, from 1.32 million in 2016, which Santana attributed to unusually scorching heat.

Santana said attendance is only one way to gauge the success of the Fairplex. He said he also measures success by the experiences the events generate for visitors and the economic benefits the facility produces for the region.

Still, he noted, as previously announced, the fair won’t raise entrance prices this summer (weekdays will cost $8 for children, $10 for seniors and $14 for adults; weekends will cost $12 for children, $15 for seniors and $20 for adults). The fair is set to run Aug. 31 through Sept. 23.

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The fair also will offer several discounts, including a day when Los Angeles County residents can enter the fair for $6.60 each. That price is a hat-tip to the theme to the 2018 fair: “Get Your Kicks,” a tribute to Route 66, the iconic road between Chicago and Los Angeles. Several food deals will also be priced at $6.60.

Among the short-term goals of the plan are to add more music and food celebrations during the year and to allow visitors to attend multiple events taking place at the 500-acre facility at the same time. Tickets to Fairplex happenings now allow guests to attend only one event at a time.

Among the long-term goals of the strategic plan is the construction of a green belt, with a bike path or jogging path, to encircle the Fairplex. The plan also calls for a transit-oriented, mixed-use development built on the north end of the Fairplex campus, near the future site of the Gold Line station in La Verne.

“Hopefully, this will make people feel more connected with the facility,” Santana said.

hugo.martin@latimes.com

To read more about the travel and tourism industries, follow @hugomartin on Twitter.


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