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State Fair revenue down 9%

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During its first meeting in 364 days, the New Mexico State Fair Commission learned Monday that revenues for the 2013 State Fair declined 9 percent compared with the 2012 fair.

Citing unaudited figures, Bill Nordin, Expo New Mexico’s chief financial officer, said revenues from the Sept. 11-22 fair were $4,736,251, compared with $5,205,445 from the previous year’s fair. Attendance declined nearly 4 percent from 2012.

New Mexico State Fair Revenues

Revenues from the New Mexico State Fair have been in decline for years, but Expo New Mexico, the venue that hosts the State Fair, is running in the black.

Nordin said revenues took a hit because of heavy rains during the three opening days and on the fair’s final day. Despite the decline, he said, the Expo’s finances are improving.

“It’s been published many times that we were losing money back in 2010 and 2011. You’ll see that it turns to the black in 2012. It continues in the black in 2013, though in a lesser amount,” Nordin told the governor-appointed commission.

Expo New Mexico, the 236-acre venue that hosts the State Fair, is a state enterprise fund that must pay for itself. Though the state Legislature does not fund Expo directly, it gives the fairgrounds capital outlay money to maintain and improve its facilities. Expo officials say the State Fair typically accounts for about one-third of the fairgrounds’ annual budget.

Expo’s key tenant is the Downs at Albuquerque racetrack and casino, which recently inked a 25-year lease that included construction of a multimillion-dollar casino on the northwest corner of Central and Louisiana NE. Nordin noted that the Downs began paying Expo more rent on Jan. 1.

“As of last week, the rent went up … from $2 million to $2.75 million,” he said. The additional rent should improve Expo’s bottom line, he said.

Expo general manager Dan Mourning said planning is underway for this year’s fair, which will run Sept. 10-21, including putting out offers earlier than usual for State Fair entertainers. He also said officials are considering charging for “preferred parking” areas during this year’s fair. Parking has been free the past two years.

Mourning also reported that the fairgrounds has received the required permit from the federal Environmental Protection Agency, which had ordered Expo last year to stop dumping manure-polluted water into the city’s storm drainage system and, ultimately, into the Rio Grande.

Because Expo’s storm water system was connected with those of the city of Albuquerque and the Albuquerque Metropolitan Arroyo Flood Control Authority, all three agencies were issued “administrative orders” from the EPA to stop the pollution.

To address those concerns, Expo constructed a dam and ponding area near San Mateo and Lomas to keep manure-laced rainwater from entering the city’s system. “Processed” water – such as tap water used for washing horses and livestock – will continue going into the Albuquerque Bernalillo County Water Utility Authority sewage system, Mourning said.

Under questioning from commission member Kenneth “Twister” Smith of Caballo, Mourning said complying with the EPA requirements cost Expo about $600,000.

Mourning said later that Expo will likely face fines from the EPA, but that he’s working with the agency to minimize those sanctions.

In other actions, commissioners – who had met only twice since March 2012 – agreed to meet quarterly. The panel also re-elected Larry Kennedy of Albuquerque as chairman and elected David “Hossie” Sanchez of Belen as secretary-treasurer.

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