Farm Progress

Illinois releases emergency funds to begin rebuilding the Coliseum at the state fairgrounds in Springfield. Four other buildings will receive much-needed repairs in time for the 2018 Illinois State Fair.

June 1, 2018

3 Min Read
CLOSED: The Illinois Department of Agriculture closed the Coliseum at the Illinois State Fairgrounds in Springfield in October 2016 after a private engineering firm declared it structurally unsound.

Finally: good news for the Illinois State Fairgrounds in Springfield.

“We’re very pleased to be notified that we have commitment from the Capital Development Board for $7 million in emergency funds to go towards the eventual repair of the Coliseum,” says Warren Goetsch, deputy director for the Illinois Department of Agriculture. “The first step is to engage an architect and engineering firm, which has already happened.”

The IDOA closed the Coliseum after a private engineering firm declared it structurally unsound in October 2016.

After architect and engineering firms conducted research that covered everything from destructive studies to welding tests, Goetsch says they now have a better handle on construction plans. “They created a complete computer model of the structure and can simulate various loads,” he explains. “All of this will be used to create a set of plans and specs for reconstruction.”

The Coliseum will remain closed for 2018 as an official construction timeline develops. “The plan now is to have it open for use by the 2019 fair,” he says, adding that the next step is completion of final construction plans and specifications before opening the bidding process to various construction providers.

Repair work will include replacing various structural members, roof decking, windows and the flashing around windows, as well as roof shingles.

“We know more about the engineering design today, thanks to the architect and engineering firm studies, than we did when it was originally built,” Goetsch says. He notes that some roof failures occurred due to the original design of the building in 1901. “The fix will incorporate better information, so the structure will have a better lifetime than the original.”

Repair triage
The Coliseum is not the only building in desperate need of repairs.

Right down the road from the Coliseum, drywall fell from the Livestock Center ceiling in late February.

“The problem there has been addressed,” Goetsch says, adding that the rubber membrane roofing material separated from the roof drains, causing a leak. “The roof membrane has been reattached, so we don’t expect that problem to reoccur.”

NEEDED REPAIRS: Addressing missing and broken shingles is one of the many projects adding up to $180 million in deferred maintenance at the Illinois State Fairgrounds in Springfield and the DuQuoin State Fairgrounds.

Barn 13, which is used as a horse warmup arena, has new roof decking, windows and shingles. Repairs were completed on May 29. “That should make a significant difference to that building,” Goetsch says.

The Orion Samuelson Jr. Livestock Building will have a new south wall later this year to address structural issues.

Barn 41 received horse-racing rehabilitation funds to fix structural issues caused by termites. “They will replace the entire room in that very historic barn,” Goetsch says.

Coliseum construction and critical repairs to these four buildings are a start, but they represent a fraction of the $180 million in deferred maintenance projects at the Springfield and DuQuoin fairgrounds.

Goetsch says Gov. Bruce Rauner “earmarked” $30 million in the proposed capital budget for fairground rehabilitation projects, but those dollars have not been released. “Our hope is that it comes to fruition,” he says. “We could at least start to make a dent in some of that deferred maintenance.”

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