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Arizona officials to discuss future of state fairgrounds

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PHOENIX — Board members for the Arizona State Fair and Exposition will meet this week at a public planning event on the future of the aging fairgrounds.

The Arizona Exposition and State Fair Board, the state’s historic preservation office and the governor’s office will hold the first meeting at 6:30 p.m. Thursday in the coliseum at the fairgrounds in central Phoenix.

There will be a public tour of the grounds near 15th Avenue and McDowell Road on Friday beginning at 9 a.m., followed in the afternoon by panels to discuss ideas for development.

A year ago, Gov. Doug Ducey asked the public for input on ways to modernize the site.

A daylong work gathering was scheduled Saturday, with a preliminary report delivered Sunday afternoon.

The final report on the meetings will be released in May.

The 88-acre site partially bordered by a historic neighborhood has been home to the state fair since 1884, when it was called the Arizona Territorial Fair. Maricopa County’s fair and other events have shared the grounds over the years.

Veteran’s Memorial Coliseum, which is part of the fairgrounds, has been the setting for professional sports, rock shows — Jimi Hendrix, the Doors, Elvis Presley, Ray Charles, Johnny Cash, the Rolling Stones and Nirvana, among them — and visits from dignitaries, such as Pope John Paul II in 1987.

Political figures who stopped for a visit included President George W. Bush (2004) and before-they-were-presidents Barack Obama (2008) and Donald Trump (June 2016).

The Phoenix Suns played their home games at the “Madhouse on McDowell” from 1968 to 1992 and the minor-league hockey Phoenix Roadrunners were tenants from 1974 to 1977 and from 1989 to 1997. Soccer teams also played there.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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