Prepared For The: Alaska State Fair Board Of Directors
May 6, 2013
Prepared By: Populous
David Forkner, ASLA
Kansas City, Missouri
Populous was retained by the Alaska State Fair Board of Directors in March, 2012 to develop a long range master plan for their
facility. Populous is a global firm that specializes in the planning and design of general assembly facilities. This includes over 250
fairgrounds, event centers, arenas and equestrian facilities. The Alaska State Fair, Inc. is a 501 (c)3 charitable organization which
is tasked with producing the annual state fair and other activities year around. Originally formed as the Matanuska Valley Fair
Association in 1936, it formally changed it’s name to the Alaska State Fair in 1956. The current site was purchased in 1996 and
the first Fair held there in 1997. Additional properties have been added.
During the 14 months master planning process, Populous conducted site analysis; met with the Fair Board, staff, user
groups, public officials and other interested parties; conducted 2 outreach meetings; attended the Fair; presented alternative
concepts and this final master plan to the Fair Board. The July 1, 2012 “Alternative Concepts “ and the November 11,2012
“Preliminary Master Plan Recommendations” presentations are found in the appendences.
Vision and Mission Statement
The master plan is constant with the Fair’s vision and mission statements which are:
Alaska State Fair, Inc. provides a center for the Alaskan community to gather in a dynamic and safe atmosphere throughout
Produce a traditional State Fair which educates and entertains Fairgoers; Provide stable finances through good business
practices, statewide outreach, partnership and hosting variety of community, cultural, and business events.
Objectives and Guiding Principles
The master plan’s objectives and guiding principles are to:
• Embrace and expand the Alaskan experience
• Enhance patron’s overall experience
• Distribute patrons more equally throughout the grounds
• Maintain and expand year round uses
• Provide for future growth in Fair attendance
• Advance stewardship
• Balance patron value and Fair profitability
• Maintain the current food vendor to patron ratio
The following issues to be addressed are:
• Potential to increase Fair attendance
• Needed improvements in Visitor Service facilities
• Advisability to construct a new Amphitheater
• Opportunity to enhance the Fair with an Alaskan Native Cultures’ Gathering Place
• An additional year round use Exhibition Building
• New Gates as part of an improved patron experience
• Replacement of the iconic Sluicebox
• Relocation of the Equestrian Center
• Replacement and location of Administration Building
• Opportunity to enhance the Colony and recognize it’s uniqueness
• Relocation of the Motor Sports Complex
• Service areas behind the Log Cabins
The Alaska State Fairgrounds are located in the Matanuska Valley on the Glenn Highway AK-1 approximately 40 mile
Anchorage, 25 miles from Wasilla and approximately a mile from Palmer. This is the most heavily populated region in
the state , representing approximately 42 per cent of it’s population.
The total contiguous property is approximately 290 acres . A general tabulation of approximate acreage is:
• “Fair Zone”: 57 acres
• Parking: 97 acres
• “Gravel Pit” property: 30 acres
• Rebarchek Farm: 12 acres (excluding areas used for parking and RVs)
• Service: 4 acres
• Undeveloped and unclassified: 90 acres
The site is generally organized along 4 pedestrian routes; the Purple Trail, Yellow Trail, Red Trail and Green Trail. Each
has it’s associated gate and parking with the exception to the Green Trail gate which is used primarily by patrons
arriving by train. All converge at the Plaza.
There are some 20 publically used buildings on the site; the predominate of which are the Borealis
Amphitheater, Farm Exhibits, and Raven Hall. Six are available for rental in addition to those used for winter storage.
With a few exceptions, the buildings are in acceptable condition and suitable for their uses. The exceptions being the
Sluicebox and the concession Cabins. The signature features are The Colony and various gardens and horticultural
• Construct an additional Maintenance/Storage facility
• Opportunity to develop the Rebarchek Farm as a historic agricultural exhibit
• Reclamation of the Gravel Pit
The annual 12 day Fair is the signature event and reported to the largest gathering in the state, second only to the Iditarod
races. It appears to be well “balanced” for the audience with respect to the types of events and activities offered. A general
area breakdown including major circulation is as follows:
Entertainment including the Borealis Amphitheater, Woodlot, Motorsports, and Grandstand Lawn: 12 acres
Outdoor exhibits, concessions, vendors and adjacent patron circulation: 18 acres
Indoor exhibits: Approximately 50,000 square feet
Equestrian and Agriculture; France Equestrian Center and Farm Exhibits: 5 acres
Carnival: 4 acres
Special activities: The Colony and Native People’s area: 4 acres
Fair Attendance, Market Penetration Rate and Growth
Market penetration rate is a marketing term used, in this instance, to define the Fair’s attendance as a hypothetical per cent
of it’s market area; the State of Alaska. With the 2011 attendance of slightly over 300,000 (308,572) and a state’s population
of over 722,000 (722,572) the penetrate rate is almost 43 per cent.
If the same rate is achieved with the state’s growth, projected to be 915,000 by 2035, the Fair’s attendance will be
slightly over 393,000 (393,450). The will represent an almost a 27 per cent increase over a 22 year period. By
comparison the average penetration rate of 35 peer state fairs is 15 per cent.
Site Density and Carrying Capacity
The “fair zone” is defined as all of the areas inside the ticketed fence line that are open to the public. This and in-grounds
peak attendance are used to calculate site density and a facility’s “carrying capacity”.
The “fair zone” is calculated to be approximately 57 acres. Peak day in-grounds attendance is determined as follows
Total Attendance: 308,000
Peak Day: 50,000 (assumes 22,00 paid;18,000 vendors, exhibitors and employees; and 10,000 others)
In-grounds Peak: 38,000 (Attendance turns over twice; the largest amount is 75% of Peak Day)
The Site Density is calculated to be approximately 660 (666) persons per acre. Growth of the Fair to a projected
attendance of 393,000 will result in a peak day of 64,000, an in-ground peak of 48,000 and a density of 840
people per acre. Densities of 1,000-1,200 persons per acre are common with the peer fairs.
The above calculations are for gross site density and do not take into account specific conditions. Currently the
greatest contractions which exceed to overall densities are in the midway, Log Cabin food court and the central
Plaza. The overall strategy is to spread out densities by adding new and relocating venues/attractions along the
The Master Plan
The master plan recommendations are presented at two levels; inside the fence line (in grounds) and out.
As shown by Illustration 1, the site recommendations outside the ticketed fence line are to:
• Develop new access drive from Inner Springer Loop to Glenn Highway. This will improve overall circulation and reduce
• Convert the landfill to parking when landfill operations are complete. This will provide approximately 3,000 parking spaces.
• Develop the Rebarchek Farm as a “living history” farm to demonstrate early settler Alaskan agriculture and tell it and The
Colony’s unique history.
In grounds recommendations are given by Trails; see orientation Illustration 2.
As shown by illustrations 3-5, the recommendations are:
• Enhance the Red, Purple and Yellow Gates with uniform structures, graphics and visitors such as restrooms , stroller
rentals and lockers.
• Relocate Motor Sports with an activities pit, portal entrance and replacement bleachers. This location is consistent with
adjacent activities and will further energize the entrance.
• Use Borealis Amphitheater for the Lumber Jack Show and Free Stage when the new Amphitheater is constructed. This
will increase the Lumber Jack’s and other acts visibility and maintain the existing site dynamics and activity level.
Recommendations for the Yellow Trail are as follows and as shown by illustrations 6-18.
• Construct Administration Building at either the Red Gate or the Yellow Gate
• Construct a new 4,000 seat covered Amphitheater with additional berm seating for 4,000 and ancillary facilities
including concession stands, sponsor lounge and vending spaces.
• Relocate the Equestrian Center to allow the new Amphitheater’s development
• Construct an Alaskan Native Cultures’ Gathering Place
• Construct a 20,000 net square foot year around use Exhibition Building dividable into 2 halls each with breakout rooms
and a catering kitchen. Building is to be entered from both the Yellow Trail and the Raven Parking lot.
• Close Yellow Trail to vehicular traffic and develop exhibit space between the two walkways
Green and Red Trails
See illustrations 19-23 and below:
• Replace the Sluicebox with a new 8,000 square foot structure with Fair and non-fair entertainment capabilities
• Construct the Colony entry portals
• Consider relocating Log Cabins if economically feasible. Otherwise screen the service areas directly behind the Cabins
from the public and add a trash compactor.
See illustration 24 and 25
• Construct a combined Maintenance and Storage Building.
• Develop an access drive from East Parking Lot to Raven Parking Lot to replace the Yellow Trail drive.
The image sketches of the recommendations are intended to set an architectural theme. The architecture is intended to be
robust and straight forward. Principal materials are wood and metal panel. See illustrations 23 and 26.
Overall Master Plan
Master Plan Development Designations
Purple Trail Development
Relocated Motor Sports
Complex with Pit
Redesigned Purple Gate
• Lumber Jacks
• Free Stage
Aerial View Looking South East
Motor Sports Grandstand Portal
Yellow Trail Development
Aerial View Looking South West
Alaskan Native Cultures’ Gathering Place
Alaskan Native Cultures’ Gathering Place
Exhibition Hall On The Yellow Trail
Trail Level View Of The Exhibition Hall
Green and Red Trails Developments
Log Cabins Refurbishing
The Colony Enhancements
Enclosed Compactor Option
Aerial View Looking North East
Administration Building (Option 1) and Red Gate
Red Trail Gate At The Colony
The Colony Portal Looking South
Typical Existing Building Treatment
Aerial View Looking North West