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State fair launches naming contest for ColiseumState fair launches naming contest for Coliseum

The condemned Coliseum at the Illinois State Fairgrounds will reopen with a new name in 2019.

Austin Keating

November 8, 2018

2 Min Read
CHAMPIONS: Shown here during the 2016 Selection of Champions, the Coliseum is expected to reopen in time for the 2019 Illinois State Fair, with a new name chosen by young people in the state.

When the Coliseum at the Illinois State Fairgrounds opens back up for shows during the 2019 Illinois State Fair, it’ll do so with a new name drawn from entries by young Illinois residents.

When Gov. Bruce Rauner and his wife donated $1 million to support renovation and repairs of the Coliseum during the 2018 state fair, he declared the Coliseum wouldn’t be renamed after their family; instead, he gave the young people of Illinois naming rights.

In response, the Illinois Fairgrounds Foundation has launched a naming contest for the Coliseum open to all current 4-H, FFA and Junior Horsemen’s Council members.

All proposed names are due no later than 5 p.m. on Dec. 14. Only one entry form, found at ilfairfoundation.com, is allowed per participant.

“I think Gov. Rauner perceives this generation as being the future of agriculture in the state of Illinois,” says John Slayton, chairman of the foundation. “It's only fair that these youngsters are getting involved and coming up with names for this wonderful architectural structure.”

Slayton says construction starts in November with the first phase, which will take the building from “unusable” to show-ready by early August 2019. Phase two of construction will happen after next year’s state fair, and Slayton says it will hopefully include ductwork, heating and air conditioning upgrades to the building.

Livestock Center
Many of the events that used to be held in the Coliseum, such as the Sale of Champions, are currently held in the Livestock Center. Slayton hosts the sale and says he misses the days when the event was held in the Coliseum, which he describes as one of his favorite buildings on the state fairgrounds.

“I'm strictly a volunteer. But I would hope that we bring back the Parade of Champions on Saturday evening to the Coliseum, or whatever the name ends up being,” Slayton says. “Then on Ag Day on Tuesday, I would hope to bring back the Sale of Champions, because it is such a wonderful venue for both of those events.”

Slayton adds that he’s seen a similarly styled building at the Iowa State Fairgrounds with audience-cooling ducts clearly visible through the window.

“We have 107 buildings on the state fairgrounds, and 107 probably need some kind of work done,” Slayton says. “But the Coliseum has been high priority.”

The reason it’s been a high priority, he says, is its history of extensive use in state fair and FFA events.

“The young folks’ fathers, grandfathers, maybe even great-grandfathers would have shown 4-H and FFA projects in this building,” he concludes. “When a young man or woman presents an animal here when it’s done, they’ll be in awe of the size and the history of the 117-year-old structure.”

About the Author(s)

Austin Keating

Associate Editor, Prairie Farmer

Austin Keating is the newest addition to the Farm Progress editorial team working as an associate editor for Prairie Farmer magazine. Austin was born and raised in Mattoon and graduated from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign with a degree in journalism. Following graduation in 2016, he worked as a science writer and videographer for the university’s supercomputing center. In June 2018, Austin obtained a master’s degree from the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University, where he was the campus correspondent for Planet Forward and a Comer scholar.

Austin is passionate about distilling agricultural science as a service for readers and creating engaging content for viewers. During his time at UI, he won two best feature story awards from the student organization JAMS — Journalism Advertising and Media Students — as well as a best news story award.

Austin lives in Charleston. He can sometimes be found at his family’s restaurant the Alamo Steakhouse and Saloon in Mattoon, or on the Embarrass River kayaking. Austin is also a 3D printing and modeling hobbyist.

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