The tragic event that occurred during the 2011 Indiana State Fair when a temporary stage collapsed in a storm and killed people led to changes in how the state fair facilities are used today. Concerts were held at Banker's Life Fieldhouse in 2012. No concerts where admission was charged were held this year. However, a higher level of entertainment was provided on the Free Stage in the northwest corner of the fairgrounds near the 4-H Buildings complex.
What about the future? Concerts are penciled in for some dates in the renovated Coliseum for 2014, but those are not yet announced or confirmed, reports Andy Klotz, public relations information officer for the fair. The majority of livestock events involving cattle and daft horses will be back in the Coliseum for 2014. That is now confirmed, according to the vote of the Indiana State Fair Board on the 2014 schedule late last month. The notable exception is 4-H horse and pony events, which will be held in the Youth Arena.
So what happens to the grandstand? Cindy Hoye, executive director of the fair, says the mile track is an important fixture at the fair. It has long been the home of horse cart racing. That will continue. In fact many of the historic barns along the east side of the fairgrounds that housed horses through the years are being renovated and updated. There is typically some sort of car race on the track each year, and a motorcycle race typically near the end of the fair.
Those events will continue. The grandstand also provides seating on Band Day and for the Farmers Day Parade. While it has been moved to different times over the past couple of years, look for it to be back in its regular Farmers Day morning time slot in 2014.
The big question is concerts. When the lights came on at 8 p.m. on the last Friday night of the fair to reveal an empty grandstands, it was eerie.
"We will never hold concerts there with a temporary stage again," Hoye says emphatically. However, she doesn't rule out building a permanent structure for a stage and holding concerts in the grandstands in the future.
"Building the structure would require millions of dollars of investment because you have to install infrastructure at the same time," she says. "We decided to devote our resources to finishing the Coliseum and Youth Arena as quickly as possible as a priority."This is actually the third grandstands at the fair, she notes. Both a wooden grandstands and a brick structure preceded it.