President Franklin D. Roosevelt visited the Indiana State Fair in 1937 and was so impressed that it was "the greatest state fair in the country" that he wanted to make it even better. So in 1938 the old, rickety livestock pavilion was torn down and Works Progress Administration crews erected the Coliseum.
Or at least that's how Cindy Hoye tells the story.
Hoye, Executive Director of the Indiana State Fair, was the emcee Thursday for rededication ceremonies of the newly renovated Coliseum. Held outside the Coliseum with several hundred people looking on, Hoye and special guests reminisced about memories from the fairgrounds, and looked to the future.
"We still have the greatest state fair in the country, and with this renovated building, it is a showcase for livestock," Hoye says. "The building is a mix of the new and the old."
Someone referred to it as a renovated 20th century exterior with a new 21st century look inside.
The building was gutted down to the outside walls and rebuilt. It now features mezzanine levels, comfortable seats, walkways around the building with various vendor booths, and an excellent view of the floor from almost any seat. Seating will depend upon the event, but is somewhat less than the former seating capacity.
Inside, the historic gold-plated ticket window still remains, along with the "penny" riding horse ride for kids, called "Champion" – left for display purposes.
It's now easier to tell how the Youth arena and the Coliseum will interact for livestock shows, with two large causeways, one at either end of the Youth arena. Some seating can be removed in the Coliseum itself to bring animals in and out during livestock shows. Several of the livestock shows will return to the Coliseum. Horse and pony shows will stay in the Youth Arena.
Hoye said that 39 contractors and 1,200 laborers worked on the project. It was finished three months early and was under budget by more than $900,000. Expect it to be a centerpiece at the 2014 Indiana State Fair.
Seven concerts will be held in the building. Visit the Indiana State Fair Website for more details.