Category Archives: Lagoon That Never Was

Lagoon And The Fair, Part II: The Utah State Fair

State Fair at Lagoon
Concept of Utah State Fair at Lagoon published in Deseret News.

By the mid-1960s, the Davis County Fair had not been held in its original location at Lagoon for roughly 20 years. The much larger Utah State Fair, with a history dating back to 1856, had been utilizing the same buildings for about 60 years. In August 1964, Lagoon manager Robert Freed sent a proposal to the president of the Utah State Fair Board suggesting the state fair move to Lagoon. As reported by the Deseret News, Freed’s proposal outlined the following benefits of having the state fair at Lagoon:

1. It would become truly a ‘State Fair’ by locating on a multi-lane interstate highway, midway between Utah’s two largest cities and population centers.

2. Lagoon’s facilities, promotional program and ‘wholesome image’ would enhance the fair and increase its attendance.

3. The amusement park’s midway with its ‘reasonable operation and control’ would remove any transient carnival atmosphere from the fair. Lagoon’s lower-than-usual midway prices would not be increased during the fair.

4. The fair board and manager could concentrate on the fair itself and dispense with the problem of building maintenance during the 355 days of the year when the fair is not held.

5. The fair can be self-supporting without capital investment by the state for remodeling or contracting concessionaires.

6. Fair facilities will no longer compete with private enterprise during the non-operating part of the year.

7. Problems of parking, congestion and antiquated buildings will be eliminated by moving to Lagoon.

8. New Lagoon buildings would provide the fair with a ‘new look.’

9. Other state fairs have ‘flourished’ under a similar arrangement – the Texas State Fair, for example, held at a Dallas permanent amusement park.

10. The state can dispose of present fair property at a profit or use it for other purposes.

11. Complaints of noise and congestion by neighbors of present fair property would be eliminated by moving from a residential location.

In a way, having the state fair at Lagoon would also extend the operating season at a time when the park usually closed down after Labor Day. The tentative plans included extensive changes to the north end of the park. The Ferris Wheel which stood at the end of the Midway would have been moved further north to allow the installation of a fountain and a new entryway on the other side of the Patio Gardens dance pavilion. More rides would have been added even further north with new picnic pavilions doubling as exhibition buildings during the fair. The new buildings would have been inter-connected in “a contemporary architectural style” – much like an outdoor shopping mall (as shown in the illustration above). A new grandstand was also to be built with a ½-mile race track modified from the existing, defunct track.

Proposed layout of State Fair at Lagoon
Proposed layout of the Utah State Fair at Lagoon printed in Deseret News, August 1964.

The process of finalizing plans wouldn’t have been a simple process. After being agreed upon by the Utah State Fair Board, the 1965 Utah Legislature would have had to change the state constitution which required the fair to be in the capitol city. Then it would need to be included on the November 1966 election ballot for voters to consider.

Even though the president of the Fair Board said there was a possibility of the plan being accepted, no further reports on the plan’s rejection¹ seem to have been printed in papers. Instead, just a matter of weeks later, Davis County Fair officials were reportedly giving serious consideration to moving the county fair back to Lagoon. They had recently sold the fairgrounds near Davis High School in Kaysville to the school district and were looking for a new venue for the fair. In the spring of 1965, an agreement was made between the Davis County Fair and Lagoon, but some of the plans announced for the Utah State Fair were still going forward on a smaller scale. A new expansion on the north end of the Midway that year featured a new fountain as planned for the state fair. Other additions originally planned for the state fair such as the Davis Pavilion and Davis Stadium were completed soon after. Opera House Square was added in 1968 on the east end of what would have been the new entrance and the further expansion to the north never took place until 1986 after the county fair relocated once again and new rides were installed on the former grounds.

There are other connections between Lagoon and the Utah State Fair, but more information is still needed. I have come across some references that suggest Lagoon may have operated rides at the state fair for an unknown period of time. Also, a former employee once told me Lagoon’s Sky Slide was sold to the state fair in the ’70s or ’80s.

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LINKS

Lagoon And The Fair, Part I: The Davis County Fair

Lagoon And The Fair, Part III: The World’s Fair

Lagoon ’65

Lagoon And The Fair Gallery

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NOTES

1. It’s likely plans for the state fair at Lagoon were simply abandoned once it was apparent that the Davis County Fair had a greater need for space like what was available at Lagoon. Over the years, consideration has been given to moving the state fair to other places like the Salt Palace and the Weber County Fairgrounds in Ogden, but the Utah State Fair continues to be held at the Fairpark in Salt Lake City. The original buildings have since been remodeled or torn down.

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SOURCES

Why Not Move Fair To Lagoon?. Deseret News, 13 Aug 1964.

State Fair At Lagoon? Board Ponders the Move. Davis County Clipper, 21 Aug 1964.

Lagoon Sets 69th Season. Deseret News, 26 May 1965.

3 are still recovering from Friday slide rides. Deseret News, 14 Sep 1983.

Lagoon Summer Shows. Deseret News, 23 Jul 1993.

Palmer, Douglas D. Fair board to study Weber offer. Deseret News, 3 Aug 1994.

Whirlwind Update and More. Email message to author, 20 Oct 2005.

History of the Fair. UtahStateFair.com, accessed 12 Sep 2012.

The Lagoon That Never Was: Lagoon IMAX

With a history going back over a hundred years, Lagoon has had plenty of attractions that have come and gone as well as a considerable amount of attractions that, for some reason or another, have never made it past the planning stages.  This is one in a series of posts about attractions that were officially announced, but never became a reality.

In the mid-1980s, Lagoon seemed to have very definite plans to open Utah’s first IMAX theater¹. The following excerpt is from a May 1984 Deseret News article which was probably one of the first reports to the public on what sounded like a sure thing.

Ground is expected to be broken later this month for a $2 million dollar project which will be Lagoon’s major new attraction for the 1985 season – Utah’s only IMAX theater, featuring a unique 70mm projection system which has a screen nearly seven stories high and more than 90 feet wide, coupled with a six-channel sound system for remarkable realism. Designed by a Canadian firm, the IMAX system has been utilized primarily at world’s fairs and similar expositions and at several amusement parks and museums.

The groundbreaking obviously never occurred and by about the same time a year later, here’s what the Deseret News was reporting:

Another major project which had been planned for this season, but which is now tentatively scheduled for construction later this fall for the 1986 season, is the construction of a big IMAX movie theater.

Nothing was ever mentioned about where the theater would have been located, but there must have been a spot set aside if construction was planned to begin so soon.

My guess is that it would have been somewhere near the stadium (where Top Eliminator and Double Thunder Raceway are today) based on the following factors.

  • The maintenance buildings and warehouses were completed near that area in 1985 to eliminate the need for several smaller spaces scattered around the property.
  • In 1986, the Midway was expanded on the north side into the area that had been reserved for rodeos, demolition derbies and the Davis County Fair². The fair’s agreement with Lagoon ended around that time and the concrete grandstand was being used less and less. In this location, the IMAX theater could have been used year-round due to its proximity to the parking lot.
  • The Sun ‘N’ Fun Theater was built in this area in 1988, possibly because plans for the IMAX theater had been scrapped. The area would have been a perfect entry way from the park.
1993 Aerial View

There could have been many reasons the theater was never built. One reason may have been that people generally don’t go to amusement parks to see movies. And only within the last ten years have first-run, feature-length movies been available in the giant format on a regular basis (like there are now at places like the Jordan Commons). I have to wonder what kind of films Lagoon would show. A popular trend in IMAX theaters in the ’80s was to feature specialized films about nearby tourist attractions. For example, the same newspaper articles quoted above speculated that a new Grand Canyon feature by Kieth Merrill (a native of Farmington, Utah) would have played there, but it was originally intended for a new theater built at the Grand Canyon. An IMAX theater built in West Yellowstone, Montana in the ’90s showed a special film about Yellowstone. Could it have been that Lagoon would have been involved in bringing about or at least showcasing some kind of movie about some local landmark? Or could it have had to do with the level of involvement between two different companies?

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NOTES

1. There was a growing emphasis on entertainment at Lagoon during the late ’80s and early ’90s. The slogan “A World of Entertainment” was used in advertising in 1985. In the ’90s, “The Entertainment Experience” was a slogan commonly used on souvenirs and publicity materials.

An IMAX screen about the same size Lagoon’s would have been was built in Spokane, Washington for Expo ’74, the same expo where Lagoon’s Jet Star 2 first opened. Watch the film that was shown and you may see why this would have made people sick after watching it on a 65-foot high screen.

2. Read more about the Davis County Fair at Lagoon.

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SOURCES

Lagoon now open on weekends. Deseret News, 10 May 1984.

Lagoon ready for 90th season. Deseret News, 12 Apr 1985.

Kieth Merrill. Wikipedia, accessed 27 Sep 2010.