State Fair and GI Casino finding ways to coexist

Local4 News at 6
Published: Aug. 9, 2023 at 10:39 PM CDT
Email This Link
Share on Pinterest
Share on LinkedIn

GRAND ISLAND, Neb. (KSNB) - This year will be the first time ever the State Fair and Grand Island Casino Resort must coexist. Fonner Park CEO Chris Kotulak said they’re committed to making it work as best as possible.

There are 230 acres at Fonner Park, so the consensus is this should all come together and work beautifully. Kotulak said Fonner Park has asked the State Fair only for as much room as they need to keep their daily activities going. The Grand Island Casino and Resort is also doing its part to help with the volume of guests.

General Manager Vince Fiala said additional staff will be hired, as he anticipated this being a win-win situation for the casino and fair. The Nebraska State Fair attracts visitors from all across the country. For some visitors, it might be their first chance to view the casino. Although parking is expected to be an issue come State Fair time.

“We’ve always found a way to deal with it,” said Kotulak. “We’ll continue to do that. The north parking lot, it comes off of Fonner Park Road and will be the way to access Finish Line Lounge and of course the Grand Island Casino & Resort.”

Kotulak said seeing how different crowds coexist will answer a lot of questions for the future. He says the casino could also be a place for people to get out of the heat. Fiala said there will hundreds of parking spots, including handicap spots reserved for casino guests. In the end, he sees it working out for everyone and that the Grand Island Casino & Resort will provide another entertainment option for fair-goers.

“We bring in some additional guests, I think to the fair this year,” said Fiala. “We’ll provide another entertainment option for the fair guest. Sometimes it gets kind of hot outside or you get rain out there and people want to come inside and cool off a little bit.”

Fiala said he doesn’t anticipate fair guests to stay in the casino more than a half hour because some will use it as a place to cool off. With all the extra bodies, there will be extra security as well. Fonner Park has its own security provider but when it comes to the State Fair an extra set of hands is brought in.

“During the State Fair, there’s always extra security,” said Kotulak. “The state police are involved, we have daily calls to the National Weather service to give us updates on what we might expect regarding that. There’s an intercom system that serves the entire 230-acre campus here at Fonner Park, so that’s great for fair-goers.”

Although there may still be questions on how the combo will unfold, Fiala put his trust in the process.

“The State Fair has been fantastic to work with,” said Fiala. “They’ve done this several years, they understand how the Fonner Park campus works. We’re the newbie’s here, and so they’ve kind of helped us and said this is what we think is going to work best for you and we’re all in. We want to work with the State Fair, and I think this is going to be a good partnership for many years to come.”

Fiala said pending approval, they will have table games for guests to enjoy when the fair arrives.