- Associated Press - Sunday, March 5, 2017

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (AP) - The Illinois State Fairground’s Coliseum won’t open its doors to guests and shows this year - not even for its namesake fair in August.

The 116-year-old amphitheater closed in October after being deemed unsafe for use. Four horse shows, a dog show, a midget-car race and an ancient athletics re-enactment have been forced to move, The (Springfield) State Journal-Register (https://bit.ly/2mpPYLk ) reported.

One of the events that relocated is the Arabian Horse Association Region XI. It will be the first time since the 1980s that the summer competition has not been held in Springfield.

Illinois Department of Agriculture officials are scrambling to provide on-site alternatives for some shows while the Coliseum awaits funding for urgent repairs amid a state budget impasse that’s lasted 20 months. One plan would include enclosing a nearby practice space.

Damage to the Coliseum includes corroding steel support beams and missing wooden planks. An informal analysis in the fall put repair costs for the three-tiered structure at $3.7 million. The Agriculture Department estimates the overall repair backlog at the Springfield and Du Quoin fairgrounds is $180 million.

A private foundation announced by Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner at last year’s fair is beginning to raise that money.

The Illinois Fairgrounds Foundation board has received $5,000 so far, said John Slayton, chairman of the Illinois Fairgrounds Foundation board.

The board has discussed selling naming rights and commemorative bricks to raise more. Horse shows have also expressed interest in pitching in for repairs.

But Slayton said reviving the Coliseum means more than providing arena space.

“Imagine a state fair without use of the Coliseum. It’s strange,” he said.

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Information from: The State Journal-Register, https://www.sj-r.com


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