Fair Park First, the nonprofit responsible for the 277-acre Fair Park complex in Dallas known for events such as the State Fair and facilities that include Cotton Bowl Stadium, recently selected AECOM to manage a slate of major capital improvements.

RFQ documents show that the firm, which is managing design, construction, permitting, closeout and other services for the projects, beat out a four-team shortlist that included HJ Russell with Project Control; Projects Group with Post L Group and Integrated Project Solutions; and VVA.

Work on the first of the projects is slated to start this year, and the final projects are expected to complete by mid-2027, according to RFQ documents. There are plans for at least 11 projects plus general infrastructure improvements. 

Drew Jeter, AECOM’s chief executive of program management, said in a statement that the projects would “modernize” Fair Park and extend it as "a vibrant gathering space.”

The park, which first opened in 1886, is a National Historic Landmark and contains one of the largest collections of exhibition-style Art Deco structures in the U.S. But the Fair Park First board says it has suffered in the past from budgetary constraints and short-sighted planning. Since 2010, the annual Cotton Bowl Classic college football game even moved from its namesake stadium at Fair Park to the Cowboys Stadium in Arlington, now named AT&T Stadium.

In 2020, Fair Park First unveiled its new master plan for the park that includes improvements to the stadium and other facilities. Last November, Dallas voters passed a ballot proposition increasing hotel occupancy taxes to provide an expected $300 million for upgrades to some Fair Park facilities plus funding for an unrelated convention center project.

One of the first projects is the 18-acre community park complex designed by Studio-MLA. The plans call for inclusive play areas, an outdoor market, cafes and a performance stage, according to Fair Park. The project also includes construction of a 1,650-space parking structure. Fair Park First Board President Darren L. James said in a statement that these projects are “putting the ‘park’ back in Fair Park and restoring it to its rightful place as an international attraction.” That first phase of work is scheduled to complete by December 2024. 

Improvements to the park’s Automobile Building, Centennial Building, Tower Building and Grand Place would follow in the next phase with completion targeted by the end of 2025, records show. The final phase of work would include improvements to the park coliseum, band shell and Cotton Bowl Stadium. 

Fair Park First posts bidding opportunities on its website for any firms interested in subcontracting on the projects. Lara Polini, AECOM president, said in a statement that the company aims to work with minority- and women-owned enterprises and local businesses at each step of the program.