After being condemned in 2016, the 118-year-old Illinois State Fair Coliseum has been brought back to life. Construction crews have worked nearly around the clock in efforts to finish the Coliseum for the 2019 Illinois State Fair, and the newly renovated Springfield landmark will be re-named the "Coliseum of Champions," thanks in part to a 4-H'er from Raymond.
A competition was held between members of Illinois 4-H, Future Farmers of America and the Junior Horseman's Council to name the newly renovated coliseum. More than 80 suggestions were received with the winning entry, "The Coliseum of Champions," being submitted by Kylie Neisler of Country Roots 4-H Club of Montgomery County, Emma Eathington of the Fairview Huskies 4-H, Elaina Kessler of the Clay City FFA. All three were guests of honor at the grand re-opening where they received a silver platter of recognition and Mega Passes to the fair.
"Through the hard work and determination of many, a Springfield treasure has been restored to its original glory and is ready to seat 2,688 fair attendees for this year's IL State Fair," said Director John Sullivan, Illinois Department of Agriculture. "Many individuals, companies and organizations have worked together tirelessly and cooperatively to see this project through to completion. We are excited to know the Coliseum will be available for generations to come."
The 60,000 square foot, three-story structure was originally constructed in 1901 by RV Evans Construction and has undergone numerous renovations over the years, in the 1940s, 1950s and 1970s. Springfield-based R.D. Lawrence Construction Company was the general contractor on the $12.7 million project.
The decayed wooden beams were replaced and the entire structure was reinforced with steel. Additional improvements include added energy efficiency with LED lighting, energy efficient windows and improved ADA accessibility. All of the improvements were done while maintaining the coliseum's historic architecture. Air circulation concerns were also addressed with twenty-one, eight ft. ceiling fans and two massive 24 ft. ceiling fans (in the horse show ring) installed for optimum air flow.
"Thankfully, the record setting rain had little negative impact on progress since much of the precipitation occurred over nighttime hours, which enabled us to stay on schedule," said Aaron Gorbett, project manager for R.D. Lawrence Construction. "We needed every hour to make the improvements that will considerably prolong the life of the structure and guarantee enjoyment for generations to come."
Funding for this project was provided by the state's Capitol Development Board in the fiscal year 2019 budget.
"This project is good for the community. There were more than eleven labor unions participating and over 100 jobs created, to complete this project," said RJ Finneran, business representative/Organizer for Carpenters Local 270. "We are proud to be a part of restoring Springfield history."
The unions involved with the Coliseum restoration project include, Carpenters Local 270, Iron Workers Local 46, UA Local 137 Plumbers & Steamfitters, Laborers Local 477, Painters Local 90, Teamsters Local 916, Bricklayers Local 8, Operating Engineers Local 965, Plasterers and Cement Masons Local 18, Roofers Local 112, IBEW Local 51.