- Associated Press - Saturday, May 13, 2017

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (AP) - Extensive repairs to the deteriorating Illinois State Fair Coliseum could take millions of dollars and two years, according to an agency that oversees state buildings.

The Capital Development Board’s conclusion was found in an emergency, $600,000 contract to enclose a short-term facility used to host horse shows and other events affected by the coliseum’s shutdown in October, The (Springfield) State Journal-Register (https://bit.ly/2pwDTTs) reported.

Inspectors concluded that the coliseum was no longer safe after years of neglect, resulting in significant structural deterioration. Fairgrounds history shows part of the three-tiered building date to 1901.

Board officials estimated repairs to the building, including a new roof and steel support beams, would cost between $3 million and $4 million. However, a formal engineering study has not been conducted.

The Illinois Department of Agriculture previously announced the coliseum won’t be open this year, including for the Illinois State Fair in August. Though, department spokeswoman Rebecca Clark said the agency is hopeful renovations can be made to open the facility in 2018.

“The Coliseum is the department’s top funding priority for the Springfield facility,” she said.

Clark said the work to enclose an existing warm-up arena is expected to be completed soon. Department officials are aiming to ensure the facility is ready for upcoming events including horse shows in the spring and summer.

In approving the emergency contract with Springfield-based Evans Construction Co., board officials warned that lack of at least a temporary facility threatened Agriculture Department rental revenue totaling more than $286,000 from 20 major coliseum events in 2016.

“This action will allow the department (agriculture) to attempt to retain current shows that are booked to use the Coliseum during the anticipated 2-year Coliseum repair, as well as market the facilities to new users in the future,” the board said in a statement.

However, challenges remain, including finding state funds.

Illinois has been without a state budget for two years as Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner and Democrats running the Legislature remain at odds.


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

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