The Arizona State Fair is moving temporarily to West Chandler’s sprawling Wild Horse Pass for 2021 after the fair was canceled last fall due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Years ago, the mile-long stretch of Wild Horse Pass along Interstate 10 hosted a Christmas celebration that included dozens of state-fair-like rides and attractions that drew thousands of people.
More than a million people annually attended the Arizona State Fair before last year’s shutdown.
The temporary move of the fair is the latest growth and development announcement by the Gila River Indian Community, which is bringing a massive sports-entertainment project that is essentially a mini city to the reservation as well as a 10,000-seat Phoenix Rising soccer stadium and hotel expansion to boost Wild Horse Pass.
In an attempt to head off another potential State Fair shutdown, the Gila River Community offered to host it on land operated by Wild Horse Pass Development Authority, which is larger than the state fairgrounds at North 19th Avenue and West McDowell Road near downtown Phoenix, allowing for social distancing and other COVID-19 mitigation measures for public health.
Meanwhile, the fairgrounds will continue to be used as a coronavirus testing and vaccination distribution site.
“The community, along with the Wild Horse Pass Development Authority, is proud to be a partner in the time-honored celebration of the State Fair,” said Gila River Indian Community Gov. Stephen Roe.
Roe added that safety will remain a priority during the pandemic and that Wild Horse Pass Development Authority “is more than capable of delivering a memorable State Fair experience.”
The community’s letter to the State Fair Board stated that the area offers space and know-how to host and deliver “a meaningful, safe and appropriately scaled outdoor event.”
While a March date initially was considered, the short lead time proved to be too ambitious, according to planners. The state is working to finalize the date. Traditionally, the State Fair has been in the fall after the intense heat of the summer.
Making this decision early to temporarily move the fair allows the state to move forward with planning and not risk loss of another year of the fair due to uncertainty about conditions.
The Arizona State Fair at Wild Horse Pass will continue to include agricultural, cultural and performing-arts components. Concerts traditionally have been part of the State Fair at Veterans Memorial Coliseum, which sits on the state fairgrounds. Wild Horse Pass has large concert venues, as well.
With the fair being on native land, a special focus will be placed on Indian Country and Arizona’s rich Native American heritage.
Already coming to Wild Horse Pass, southwest of the Interstate 10/Loop 202 interchange in West Chandler:
- An 11-story second hotel tower at Wild Horse Pass Hotel, nearly doubling capacity to 447 rooms.
- A 3,300-acre mini-city commercial development, headlined by an events center and concert amphitheater, that will be rolled out over a decade. Included in the plan are five more hotels, a theme park, water park, timeshare complex, third golf course, vastly expanded equestrian center, villas, retail and office space.
- Interstate 10 widening to four lanes plus a High Occupancy Vehicle lane in each direction from the Interstate 17 split near downtown Phoenix to Loop 202 at the Wild Horse Pass doorstep. A study also has begun to expand the freeway to three lanes each way south to State Route 387 in Casa Grande, the final 26-mile stretch of two-lane freeway between Phoenix and Tucson, making access to Wild Horse Pass easier from central and southern Arizona. This comes just over a year after the Loop 202 segment connecting I-10 in West Chandler to I-10 in west Phoenix opened, making the drive for West Valley residents faster and easier.
- And, a championship-caliber soccer team in a new 10,000-seat stadium when the Phoenix Rising Football Club relocates to the reservation in March.
The projects will provide new revenue streams to the Gila River Indian Community and create thousands of jobs at buildout over the next 10 years.
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