Facelift: Coliseum gets first phase of a new old look

With the roof completed on the Coliseum at the Illinois State Fairgrounds, the architectural details of the 1901 building can be seen. The 60,000-square-foot amphitheater, now called the Coliseum of Champions, will be officially reopened on Aug. 9, the first day of the Illinois State Fair, although horse show events will take place in the building before that.

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. — On Aug. 9, the Coliseum at the Illinois State Fairgrounds will be officially reborn.

State officials will cut the ribbon on the newly-renovated Coliseum, now called the Coliseum of Champions. But it’s the events that will again call the Coliseum home that will truly affirm the new old Coliseum returning to service.

“It’s so nice to be able to bring back the traditional fair events, like the Sale of Champions and the livestock events, to be able to bring those back to the Coliseum. It’s really the crown jewel of the Illinois State Fairgrounds, and it’s so nice that we can open it back up this year,” said Krista Lisser, spokeswoman for the Illinois Department of Agriculture.

Work on the 118-year-old, 60,000-square-foot Coliseum began in January.

The Coliseum was closed in October 2016 after structural defects were found that rendered the building unsafe for use. It sat unused during the Illinois State Fair in 2017 and again last year.

The state’s Capital Development Board made a $12.7 million appropriation for the Phase 1 repairs to the Coliseum.

“This will be to get it up and running,” Lisser said.

A new room was installed that accents the building’s architectural details.

“You’ll notice just how beautiful the building is now,” Lisser said.

The building’s structure has been reinforced and energy-efficient fixtures, including new LED lighting and 250 energy-efficient windows that were modeled after the original 1901 windows, were installed.

“The steel columns have been reinforced and sealed to curb future rusting and the rotted beams were replaced and reinforced with steel bracing,” Lisser said.

Facelift: Coliseum gets first phase of a new old look

New work on the Coliseum at the Illinois State Fairgrounds in Springfield started in January. The first phase of what is expected to be a three-phase renovation and repair project included replacing the roof and installing new energy-efficient fixtures, including LED lighting and reinforcing and repairing columns inside the building.

Lisser said ceiling fans will be installed to enhance air circulation and air quality.

The second phase of the work will involve installing a heating and cooling system to make the Coliseum a year-round venue.

“The not-for-profit Illinois Fairgrounds Foundation has a million-dollar donation from the Rauner Family Foundation and an $800,000 donation from the JB Pritzker Inaugural Committee. In phase 2, we are hoping to do a heating and cooling system, so we can host events there year-round,” Lisser said.

In The News

One of the groups that kept the Coliseum and its repair needs front and center for Illinois legislators and leadership is the Horsemen’s Council of Illinois.

The council took out a full-page advertisement in the State Journal Register newspaper in Springfield to call attention to the dollars being lost when horse shows left Illinois and the state fairgrounds for other venues out of state.

Paula Briney, chairwoman of the Horsemen’s Council of Illinois, said she was relieved and happy that the Coliseum once again will be hosting events during the state fair and after.

“We have watched it go all summer, so it’s been fun and exciting to see how they’ve been working on it and very exciting to see the progress they’ve made,” Briney said.

She said horse events already have started to return.

The first session of the Illinois State Fair Society Horse Show, which starts Aug. 5, will take place in the Coliseum.

“We have quite a few different horse shows that are scheduled to be in there after the state fair. Some of those shows have returned because the Coliseum is going to be reopened,” Briney said.

Jeannine Otto can be reached at 815-223-2558, ext. 211, or jotto@agrinews-pubs.com. Follow her on Twitter at: @AgNews_Otto.

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