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Did You Know: Arizona State Fairgrounds 110 Years Old

By Nadine Arroyo Rodriguez
Published: Friday, August 21, 2015 - 2:56pm
Updated: Friday, August 21, 2015 - 2:58pm
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(Photo by Nadine Arroyo Rodriguez - KJZZ)
Arizona State Fair Grandstand was built in 1936-37.

This state venue has been a gathering place for decades. As a matter-of-fact it’s been an entertainment spot even before Arizona was a state.

Arizona State Fairgrounds hosts numerous events every year, including the state fair.

Did You Know… the Fairgrounds has been hosting the annual event since 1905?

“It was used as the territorial fair until 1911, then 1912 it switched over to the state fair," said G.G. George, a resident of the Encanto-Palmcroft community east of the Fair Grounds. She’s also writing a book about the place.

“This represented the bounty of the state of Arizona," she said. "Where they showed it off every October, every November.”

The gathering showcased and celebrated the accomplishments of the territory’s agriculture and livestock industry. The original fair grounds in the 1880s was located near Central Avenue and the Salt River. When the river flooded in 1891 the area was washed out, so the gathering ended.

After several years, Phoenix Mayor John C. Adams decided to raise private funds to purchase an 80-acre property. It was way north of the city in an area we know today as McDowell Road, 19th Avenue and Grand Avenue. Adams wanted to revive the state fair and add horse racing.

“He had had the forethought to have the legislature pass legislation in 1904 to permit this," George said.

In 1905 the fair was up and running again. Structures were added to the land including a wooden grandstand and a one-mile track for horseracing.

Then auto racing was added. A few years later additions were made to the property.

“The mining interest in Arizona had that grandiose Mining and Mineral Museum built in 1918, that was the only one that really survived up until the ‘30s and until today," George said.

In the 1930s, a new concrete grandstand replaced the original wooden one that burned down. Cattle barns and other structures were added. One in particular is the WPA Civic Building. It was the Arizona headquarters of the Works Project Administration, the agency that oversaw the federal government’s New Deal-era program.

“You can look at that 1938 building right there and say this was the headquarters for the administration from the state and federal government that brought Arizona back to life," George said.

Right now the future of the WPA building is up in the air as state and city leaders and community representatives try to develop a plan and raise the funds to preserve it. 

Car racing on the Arizona state Fair Grounds ended in the1960s and part of the track was replaced with the Arizona Veterans Memorial Coliseum. Which by the way, the Coliseum was known as the Madhouse on McDowell for the Phoenix Suns during the team’s early years.

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