Fair Park First Receives $5M Gift for Naming of New Carona Plaza at the Cotton Bowl

Announcing the gift alongside the Dallas Park and Recreation Department, Fair Park First said that Carona Plaza will serve as "the signature heartbeat" of the Fair Park campus, situated directly in front of the iconic Cotton Bowl Stadium and Leonhardt Lagoon.

John and Helen Carona have made a $5 million gift to Fair Park First for the naming of the new Carona Plaza at the Cotton Bowl Stadium.

Announcing the gift alongside the Dallas Park and Recreation Department, Fair Park First said that the Carona Plaza will serve as “the signature heartbeat” of the Fair Park campus, situated directly in front of the iconic Cotton Bowl Stadium and Leonhardt Lagoon.

Fair Park First noted that the Carona family has a distinguished reputation for service to the Dallas community and that their investment in this public space is an extension of their commitment to Dallas and to the state of Texas.

“It’s an honor to have the Carona family invest in the storied past and hopeful future of Fair Park,” Veletta Forsythe-Lill, board member of Fair Park First, said in a statement. “They will help us create a new and inviting campus for all.”

John Carona, president of Dallas-based Associa, is a former member of the Texas Senate from District 16 in Dallas County, having served as president pro tempore during the 80th legislature.

Previously, Carona served as a member of the Texas House of Representatives.

A big check for a big, improved plaza in front of the Cotton Bowl at Fair Park. Presented by John and Helen Carona to representatives of Fair Park First and the Dallas Park and Recreation Department, with Dallas Mayor Eric Johnson gripping the check at right. [Photo: Fair Park First]

Fair Park renaissance underway

Dallas Mayor Eric Johnson, who was present at the announcement, lauded what he called “an incredible gift that supports a historic gem in our city.”

“I want to thank John Carona and his family, who have served our state over many years, for their generosity and commitment to Fair Park and Cotton Bowl Stadium,” Johnson added in a statement. “As we can see this month during the great State Fair of Texas, these are vital venues that serve Dallas residents while helping us welcome guests beyond our city, from across our state and from around the world.”

Fair Park First said the plaza will receive upgrades including new concrete work, landscaping and sitting areas, as well as marquee signage at the north and south ends.

“While Fair Park is going through a renaissance period of renovation, we could not be more honored and excited by John and Helen Carona’s commitment to Dallas with this generous gift,” Arun Agarwal, president of the Dallas Park and Recreation board, said in a statement. Agarwal is seen at far left in the photo above.

With the iconic Cotton Bowl Stadium as the backdrop to Carona Plaza, the area will serve as a center point of the activation area of Fair Park’s 277 acres—from the State Fair of Texas to concerts, games, festivals and more.

Plaza improvements will complement $140M designated for the Cotton Bowl

The Carona Plaza improvements, coupled with $140 million of improvements going into the Cotton Bowl Stadium, will create vibrant hospitality at the center of Fair Park, Fair Park First said.

“We’re so honored that the Carona Family’s gift will help facilitate the continued restoration and revitalization of the Fair Park campus,” Heather Stevens, Rise360, Capital Campaigns for Fair Park, said in a statement. “Their generosity builds on the continued public and philanthropic support of the Phase 1 capital campaign, led by Fair Park First in partnership with Dallas Parks and Recreation, to revitalize Fair Park. Together collectively raised more than $350 million raised towards the goal, and we invite donors to join to the campaign in supporting this beloved campus as it enters a new era of serving the City of Dallas.”

Fair Park has several other capital projects on the campus underway during Phase 1 of the Master Plan, including the Music Hall, African American Museum, Dallas Visitor Center, Magnolia Lounge, creation of the 18-acre Community Park, a 1.4-acre neighborhood park, and several other building and grounds projects.

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R E A D   N E X T

  • EarthX is seeking innovators and investors to participate in its 2023 EarthX E-Capital Summit April 19-22 at Fair Park in Dallas. At the summit, early-stage climate tech companies will be able to make pitches for a chance at a cash prize. There will also be discussions on investment and industry trends by leading industry professionals, investors, startups, and policymakers, EarthX said, along with curated and self-selected one-on-one networking meetings between investors, dealmakers, and innovators.

  • Slated to open in 2025, the complex is the first step to putting the "Park" back in Fair Park, says Fair Park First, Dallas Park and Recreation's management partner that oversees day-to-day operations at Fair Park. The 18-acre Community Park Complex will feature Wi-Fi, water play, an outdoor performance stage, a dog park, outdoor cafes, exercise equipment, and inclusive playgrounds.

  • AECOM said it will oversee the delivery of the upcoming Community Park Complex, an expansive 18-acre greenspace that includes a 1,650-space parking structure. The firm will also partner on future projects by managing design, construction, permitting, and closeout, among other services.

  • Billed as the #1 dino experience in North America, Jurassic Quest will be roaring into Dallas' Fair Park June 9-11. The exhibit will include life-like dinosaurs, dinosaur rides, live dinosaur shows, interactive science and art activities, bounce houses, inflatable attractions and more. See what's new for 2023—and how you can get in on the action.

  • New stop-motion animation aims to stop you in your tracks—and get you excited about experiencing The Midway starting September 29.