Tim O’ Toole is President & CEO of Oklahoma State Fair, Inc. which operates State Fair Park in Oklahoma City – one of the largest and most successful event venues in the nation. At State Fair Park, Tim oversees the strategic planning…
CHALLENGE. Just outside of Oklahoma City’s downtown sits State Fair Park, an expansive fairgrounds that plays host to not only the annual Oklahoma State Fair but also some of the nation’s largest livestock, equestrian and rodeo events as well as numerous expos, concerts and community events. From creating the master plan that has laid out future plans for expansion and renovation on the site to designing a $120 million equestrian and livestock complex, the people Populous have had a hand in shaping State Fair Park for more than a decade. In addition, Populous designed the new $60 million exhibit hall that will include 210,000 square feet of exhibition space, which is currently under construction.
Although one of the largest public venues in the nation, State Fair Park is centrally located in very close proximity to downtown Oklahoma City, and in turn, draws a number of events that don’t fit in venues in the middle of downtown. Considering this, the people of Populous were challenged in multiple master plans and later, the design of the exhibition and equestrian facilities, to create spaces that would make the park a truly multipurpose, year-round complex capable of accommodating events of all shapes, sizes and requirements.
INNOVATION. State Fair Park’s master plan and the resulting additions and renovations required designers to rethink the existing park’s layout to ensure greater connectivity between major facilities and to modernize a number of aging facilities, including the 8,500-seat Jim Norick Arena. The resulting plan incorporated updates which have since been completed to a number of facilities that increased the overall stall count to 3,200, as well as the addition of a new Super Barn adjacent to the Norick Arena and an outdoor covered exercise arena. In addition, a new 210,000 square foot expo center is currently being designed by Populousthat will include full-service food facilities for banquets and featuring the latest in technology, including LED video walls and reader boards.
Among the innovations at State Fair Park, The Super Barn and the exhibition facility are particularly notable for their flexibility and efficiency. The Super Barn (aptly nicknamed by equestrians because it is the largest building of its type in the world) houses an indoor arena and 1,016 stalls with full-view doors for excellent ventilation, and sliding divider partitions allow fully mechanized cleaning of the entire barn. This revolutionary innovation, originally conceived by Todd Gralla, allows the barn to be fully turned over in less than 12 hours with one-third the manpower required for traditional stalls. Additionally, the Super Barn’s natural lighting design provides ample light during daylight hours for cleaning and maintenance without the use of artificial lighting, proving for substantial utility cost savings. The new exhibition facility will replace the aging Travel & Transportation Building and Carriage Hall and will provide over 210,000 square feet of contiguous exhibition space, making it among the largest at any fairgrounds in the nation and will allow the park to draw major national and international events.
IMPACT. These equestrian and exhibition facilities will enable State Fair Park to continue to host existing and future local, regional, national and international shows for many decades to come. With the addition of these facilities, State Fair Park has come to host more national and international equestrian shows and events than any other facility, including the AQHA World Show and Youth World Show, NRHA Derby and Futurity, Grand National & World Championship Morgan Horse Show, Cinch USTRC National Finals of Team Roping, Youth National Arabian & Half-Arabian Championship Horse Show and the International Finals Rodeo, to name a few.