La Verne Magazine
"La Verne's Borders: North, South, East and West"
Not Just Ferris Wheels and Farm Animals Anymore
text and photography by Christie Reed
Gearing up for thrilled stomachs, families strap in for a whirl on another
spinning carnival ride at the 1997 Los Angeles County Fair at Fairplex in
Pomona. As the ride begins, red, blue and green lights mesh and swirl, and
riders' screams echo throughout the grounds.
Lights from the ferris wheel at fair time are not the only things that
look bright at Fairplex. Having just celebrated its 75th anniversary with
three weeks of carnival rides, commercial exhibits and lots of cotton candy,
the Fair seems to be as popular as its ever been -- but it is not enough.
The hundreds of thousands of people who pass through the yellow, blue,
green and red admission gates each September and October are not enough
to keep 487 acres running 365 days a year according to Sid Robinson, communications
manager at Fairplex.
"If we keep things the way they are right now, we will die,"
he says. "As much as people will be inconvenienced [by the expansion],
there would be a more severe impact if that were the case."
Although Fairplex seems to be rock solid, the site, when sitting idle
during most of the week, is losing money that it could be giving back to
the communities that surround it.
To sustain Fairplex and at the same time provide local entertainment
possibilities for neighboring communities, Robinson, along with Fairplex
staff and Lewis Homes, hopes to develop the grounds into a full-time, year-round
"We do not want to replace the Fair but add events that will complement
what we already do and to help drive business and the hotel [Sheraton] as
well," says Robinson. "Our intent is to make Fairplex a year-round
entertainment destination, not just the home of the Fair or weekend events."
While Fairplex already hosts more than 300 events annually, including
gun, animal and computer shows, Fairplex of the future could equate with
such hot spots as Old Town Pasadena, The Irvine Spectrum and Universal City
Walk, according to Robinson.
Imagine walking along a typical main street anytime during the 1930s
to the 1950s. Picture a world's fair atmosphere where families, friends
and neighbors gather. There is entertainment at every corner, with places
to shop, food to eat and a never-ending boulevard of things to do and see.
It is a fair that never ends.
Lewis Homes Enterprises of Upland, an affiliate of well-known commercial
developer Lewis Homes Retail, is proposing to make this dream a reality.
The 460,000-square-foot center, known as Paradise Park, will be located
inside Fairplex grounds between the Fairplex Park grandstand and the Flower
& Garden Pavilion. Lewis Homes Retail is entering into a long-term ground
lease with the Los Angeles County Fair Association to develop the project.
Construction is anticipated to start in late 1998, with a targeted opening
of November 1999.
The first phase of the $100 million development will be the development
of approximately 250,000 square feet of Paradise Park, a year-round family-oriented
operation that will "encourage customer interaction and participation."
Targeted tenants are multi-screen cinemas, large-screen three-dimensional
theaters, live entertainment venues, themed restaurants, retail stores,
sports and recreation companies, museums and exhibits.
"We have already met with a number of prospective tenants who have
significant interest in the development," says Randall Lewis, spokesperson
for Lewis Homes Retail. "It has been perceived as one of the most creative
and insightful projects they have seen presented.
"Location is key to a project such as this, and Fairplex is an
ideal location. The area has been called the 'new heart of L.A.,' because
of its close proximity and easy access to major freeways. In addition, there
is a population base of 3.2 million people within a 20-mile radius, plus
more than 50,000 college students within a five-mile radius."
Potential economical benefits include potential tax revenue of $1 million
to the city of Pomona, as well as the creation of approximately 1,000 full-time
equivalent jobs for the region.
Paradise Park itself will be a themed main street promenade with six
districts, including a motorized transportation district, a sports and recreation
district, a learning and technology district, a movie and media district,
a live performance district and a California Marketplace.
Architecturally, the promenade will have a 1930s Art Deco feel with
extensive water features, colorful store fronts, sculptures and icons that
represent achievements in California transportation, technology and culture.
James E. Henwood, president and chief executive officer of the Fair
Association says, " This [project] is something the local citizens
have expressed a desire for in their community, and it will provide them
with a nearby family location where they can go to the movies, enjoy a live
stage performance, meet authors at a book store, dine in a variety of unique
restaurant settings or meet their friends and neighbors and engage in countless
Along with Lewis Homes and the Los Angeles County Fair Association,
the development team consists of Feola, Carli & Archuletta Architects,
Dream Street Entertainment and Richard Orne and Associates. "Nobody
knows the market better than Lewis Homes Retail, and we are very pleased
to be moving forward with them on this exciting project," says Henwood.
Construction will result in a re-organization and widening of Broadway,
the primary thoroughfare at Fairplex running adjacent to the grandstand.
Elements of the Fair that have been in the proposed Paradise Park location
will remain inside the gates, but will be moved or woven into the Paradise
Park layout to create a festival environment during the 18-day Fair, explains
"Paradise Park takes the very best elements of fairs, plus the
spirit and optimism that they exude, and combines them in a place where
people can come together any day of the year to discover a glorious panorama
of achievement, education and entertainment," Lewis says. "It
will be a perfect complement to the other entertainment and development
already in the area."
Lewis Homes Retail and the Fair Association are conducting meetings
with officials from Pomona and neighboring cities, as well as with local
residents to gain their input during the development process. "We are
meeting with people in our neighborhoods right now," Lewis says, explaining
that this type of informal poll has left him with the sentiment that the
majority of the locals will support such an expansion. "This [entertainment
complex] will increase the importance we have to the city of Pomona. The
city doesn't have anything like this."
At the same time, citizens have also expressed to Robinson their concerns
over increased traffic, parking, trash and noise.
"These problems can be solved," assures Robinson. An environmental
impact report process is scheduled to start in the first quarter of 1998
and will take approximately six months.
"We are talking with the developer right now," admits Robinson.
"But nothing will be done without the full support of the community.
The community has to support it for us to do it and for a developer to want
to do it."
"As much as people may be inconvenienced, there would be more of
a severe impact if we were to disappear," explains Robinson. Fairplex
supports more than 200 local charities, clubs and organizations. "If
Fairplex ceases to exist, what will happen to Pomona," he asks. "We
contribute so much to the community that it would cut into the city's budget."
Aside from putting Pomona back on the map in a positive way, the potential
entertainment complex will serve as "a place that community residents
can be proud of and take their friends and families to a movie, dinner or
just out for the evening. Instead of coming for just a couple of hours,
people will stay for a whole day," he adds. "They will stay at
local hotels, utilize gas stations-this will boost the economy."
While Fairplex understands the concerns of its neighbors who live in
the multi-million dollar houses south of them, it is not possible for Fairplex,
the home of the world-renowned Los Angeles County Fair, to thrive off the
revenue it makes from only a few weeks each year.
"We have to develop," says Robinson. "We can't just sit
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