A $63-million renovation to the Indiana State Fair Coliseum will include a new youth arena, updated exterior and completely revamped interior to the original coliseum, while still honoring the original layout.
A $63-million renovation to the Indiana State Fair Coliseum will include a new youth arena, updated exterior and completely revamped interior to the original coliseum, while still honoring the original layout.

INDIANAPOLIS — With so many renovations to the Indianapolis State Fair this year, many things are changing. But one thing remains the same — the purpose of connecting agriculture to the public.

The fair attracts, on average, upwards of 800,000 people each summer, making it the hottest place to learn about agriculture and connect growers with consumers.

The scene at this year’s Indiana State Fair features a multi-million-dollar renovation to the coliseum, including a brand new arena for livestock shows, and updates across the grounds.

“This institution has never lost sight of its foundation, its mission,” said Cindy Hoye, executive director of the Indiana State Fair. “Originally, fairs were designed for one farmer to be able to share knowledge and ideas with another. We’re wasting knowledge if we don’t have a platform or location where knowledge can be exchanged.

“Fairs are more important and relevant today than when they very first started. Consumers now have far more questions about what they are eating and how products have been grown, so I believe the fair, year around, has a responsibility to educate and teach people and help them walk away with more knowledge than when they walked through the gate.”

The renovations to the fairgrounds will help facilitate education by providing a modern platform for conversations about agriculture to take place.

The renovated coliseum, which will be 75 years old when it opens in 2014, will be equipped to host a variety of events, ranging from national livestock shows to large-scale sporting events. But the revamped building still will honor its original structure.

“What we did is we took the inside and rebuilt it consistent with building codes today,” Hoye said. “Now it can last for another 50 to 75 years.”

The coliseum brings in 40 percent of the fair’s revenue, so keeping the building up to date is necessary for the fair to prosper as a whole. Proceeds from the coliseum also help fund 4-H livestock competitions and help the fair give back to the community in other ways. “I think there’s a fear that with the new coliseum and its many purposes, agriculture will be pushed out,” said Kirby Brincefield, entry department manager at the fair. “But it would be a disservice to the Indiana State Fair and the people of Indiana not to have ag involved.

“I think that the ag community should look at it is as this: While there may be a concert in there one night, we get to have it for eight more nights for livestock because of that one event.”

Brincefield thinks that any fear will subside once people realize the new potential for the building. The fair will be able to host national and international livestock and agriculture events, and as Brincefield put it, “the possibilities for the coliseum and agriculture are endless.”

“I’m excited because I don’t think there’s any other time in its history that we’ve had so much construction and renovation going on here at the fairgrounds,” Hoye said. “It is refreshing that we continue to make this place better, to leave it in better hands than the way we found it.”

The new youth arena, which will open this summer, will host the 2013 4-H livestock shows. Visitors will be able to tour the coliseum and see the progress that has been done to date.