Illinois State Fair In Need Of Funds

Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner organized a foundation in August to reach out to the private sector for help funding the state’s fairgrounds much needed repairs.

Photo: AP Photo/Seth Perlman, File
Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner partakes in the opening ceremonies at the state fair in Springfield, Ill., Aug. 12. The fairgrounds need $180 million worth of repairs and maintenance.

The Illinois State Fairgrounds in Springfield need $180 million to cover the expenses that include more than a dozen roofs being repaired or replaced and electrical system updates while the grounds in DuQuoin, Ill., need a fire alarm system, grandstand improvements and numerous safety upgrades.

A struggling state budget is the main culprit for the backlog of maintenance as money has not been available for the upkeep of the fair, which drew 412,000 people last year.

Attendance records for this year have not been disclosed. Surrounding states’ fair foundations have varying degrees of success.

Iowa took 23 years to raise $118 million for its fair, which boasts regular attendance of 1 million and $4.7 million in annual revenue.

Recent annual revenue totals for Wisconsin were $400,000 while Indiana reached $500,000 and Minnesota took in $3.8 million.

But if neighboring states are any indication of Illinois’ fair future there may be hope.

Minnesota broke an attendance record this year with 1.9 million fairgoers and began tackling $80 million to $100 million in backlogged capital projects in 2002.

In June, a $4 million history and heritage center was completed.

The Illinois State Fair took place Aug. 11-21 and faced several obstacles.

Heavy rainfall and flash flooding caused the fair to close early Aug. 12 with the cancellation of the Pat Benatar & Neil Giraldo and Melissa Etheridge concerts that evening. Triple-digit heat indexes and power outages also contributed to the fair’s challenges.