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'The Coliseum of Champions' Slated To Open In July

Jaclyn Driscoll
NPR Illinois

The Coliseum on the Illinois State Fairgrounds will now be called 'The Coliseum of Champions" and renovations are underway to re-open the building by the 2019 Illinois State Fair. 

The historic building was closed back in 2016 when it was deemed structurally unsafe.

Last year, the Fairgrounds Foundation, which is the charitable organization leading the grounds' renovations, announced a contest to name the rehabbed facility which was open to members of Illinois 4-H, FFA, and the Junior Horseman's Council. 

The winning entry was submitted by Emma Eathington of the Fairview Huskies 4-H, Elaina Kessler of the Clay City FFA, and Kyle Neisler of Country Roots 4-H Club of Montgomery County. They will be guests of honor at the grand reopening of the building and they received a silver platter of recognition and a Mega Pass to the 2019 Illinois State Fair. 

The bid for renovations went to a Springfiled-based contractor, R.D. Lawrence Construction Co., for $10.2 million. They plan to get the building open by July 20th of this year. This is the same contractor that lead the repairs of the Illinois Governor's Mansion. 

John Slayton is the chairman of the Fairgounds Foundation. He said they’ve already made progress on construction. 

“Phase 1 and 2 which they’re in right now, will be fixing all the beams and the infrastructure inside the building," he said. "And columns around the facility that corroded over the last few decades.”

Slayton recognized that the Coliseum is number one on the list, but there’s lots of work to be done elsewhere. Total renovation estimates for the grounds in Springfield and the Du Quoin State Fairgrounds are roughly $185 million. 

“Every building on the fairgrounds needs some kind of attention," said Slayton. "The exposition building has roof issues, that will be a major project. The dairy barn where the dairy cow sits during the state fair has tarps on the roof, so that building needs to be repaired.”

Gov. J.B. Pritzker announced Monday that he’s donating half of the money raised by ticket sales for his inaugural gala. That totaled $800,000. The other half went to the Cabrini Green Legal Aid in Chicago. 

Jaclyn has an MA in Journalism from DePaul University and a BS in History form Monmouth College. Prior to reporting, Jaclyn was a social science teacher and department chair at Greenfield High School. Previously, Jaclyn reported for WICS Newschannel 20 where she covered a variety of assignments including courts, politics, and breaking news. She also reported at Siouxland News in Sioux City Iowa, the shared CBS/Fox television newsroom. Her internships included WGN and Comcast SportsNet in Chicago.
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