HUTCHINSON, Kan. — Kansas State Fair General Manager Bryan Schulz told Hutch Post Thursday that he's having the first conversation with a couple of developers to figure out if a fairgrounds hotel would be feasible.
"This afternoon, I'm actually meeting with a couple of developers," Schulz said. "We're actually going to talk about a possibility of a hotel on the fairgrounds. I know, originally, previous management had looked at the corner where the current fire station is at, an then attaching it to like the Meadowlark Building for the convention side of it. When you start looking at that, where the new fire station is going, that takes up a big plot of land, that we had to displace quite a few of our vendors, so we're looking to replace that. One of the areas that we're maybe going to look at is over off of Plum, just north of like The Rusty Needle on our Gate 3 area."
If such an idea gets any traction, it would still be quite a lengthy process with several different levels of approvals before anything could even be started, let alone finished.
"First of all, we have to come up with a, is it going to work on our grounds?", Schulz said. "Obviously, being a state agency, we need to make sure that the state is okay with it, because they own all the grounds and all the buildings at the state fair. We have to make sure we've got all of our I's dotted and our T's crossed there, working through our legal team with the Attorney General's office, getting their permission. Then, that developer has to say, yep, I'm ready to go, I've got all the backing. This is what it's going to look like, here's what it's going to do for you and what it's going to do for us. That's going to be something that our board is going to have to look at, that it is not just going to be put up on the grounds with no benefit to the fair, as well."
In addition, if there are additional infrastructure needs at a selected site, there could need to be legislative approval for the funds to make that happen. Schulz is clear that even getting a fairgrounds facility wouldn't solve the hotel issue.
"One hotel is just not going to do it," Schulz said. "We've talked about this many times. Right now, we're going up to McPherson. We're going to Maize. We're filling everything in town here. That's for Fair time. We're actually contacting AirBNBs, VRBOs. We put up a ton of people ourself, let alone the guests that are coming to town, or the ones that can't come to town because they can't find a place to stay and they are not wanting to drive another 25, 30 miles at the end of the day."
Schulz sees the fair as a great destination for those short distance staycations that families often do in times of high gas prices, he just wishes we had more space to help with that.