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WASTE WATCH: A crumbling State Fairgrounds, where is the money going?

WASTE WATCH: A crumbling State Fairgrounds, where is the money going?

While revenue is steady for the Illinois State Fairgrounds in Springfield, its buildings and infrastructure are visibly crumbling.

The historic Colisium building, for example, has been on a steady decline. It closed in 2016, deemed unsafe for public use.

"That is a heartbreaking thing," said David Scheiris, a long-time visitor of the State Fairgrounds. "It is a beautiful, beautiful, building."

Patchy roofs and bumpy roads are what thousands of tourists see each year at the State Fairgrounds. Fittingly, the State Fair is one of the biggest draws. According to a state audit report, it made about $6 million in ticket and rental sales in 2017.

"Some of the facilities here, like the bathrooms, need upgrading," Scheiris said. "They are still 1940ish."

A FOIA request led us to a state audit report. It shows expenses, like personnel and racing awards and premiums, are eating those millions in revenue away.

"The maintenance and repairs haven't gone into these buildings," said Frank Butterfield, Director of Landmarks Illinois in Springfield.

Landmarks Illinois is a non-profit organization that deemed the Illinois State Fairgrounds as one of the most Endangered Historic Landmarks.

"The current estimates are $180 million and that is going to take a lot of resources and a lot of solution," Butterfield said.

The audit report, filed for the Department of Agriculture in 2017, shows the state of Illinois spent $4.5 million in 2017 on operating costs and groundwork. In a statement, Raymond Poe, Director of the Illinois State Department of Agriculture wrote:

"Each year, in the absence of a capital budget, Buildings and Grounds crews conduct repair jobs throughout the fairgrounds. In the Grandstand, some of those repair jobs include work to handrails, elevators, brick and mortar work, roofing and painting. We are aware of the $180 million in Springfield and DuQuoin deferred maintenance costs.. This stems from a decades-long absence in capital funding."

Governor Rauner supported that statement during a news conference last week.

"I've advocated for $30 million in capital investment in the State Fairground," Governor Rauner said. "They need to be upgraded and maintained because they haven't been invested in a long time."

Construction work to repair the roof of Barn 13 is still underway. It is a project that costs about $600,000. It is expected to be complete by the end of May.


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