Fairgoers in 2016 will see some improvements after Gov. Jay Nixon announced significant funding for the Missouri State Fairgrounds.
Nearly $4 million in renovations will take place over the next year at the Womans Building, the Coliseum and on the west campgrounds thanks to funding made possible through the Build Missouri initiative, Nixon announced during a press conference Wednesday afternoon.
“The Missouri State Fair has been the state’s premier agricultural showcase for well over 100 years, and it’s one of my favorite summer traditions,” Nixon said. “… It’s also important to focus on young folks here. Last year more than 4,300 4-H and FFA youth exhibitors representing nearly every county in our state had more than 30,000 items on display.
“… We’ve also seen continued strength in our attendance numbers with more than 361,000 fairgoers entering the gates last year, helping to increase earnings at the grandstands, carnival and campground. Simply put, the Missouri State Fair is an important and enduring tradition. As leaders of the state we have to leave these fairgrounds better than we found them.”
$1.3 million in upgrades at the Womans Building, which was built in 1910, include removing and replacing the roof and exterior windows, renovating restrooms and interior finishes, repairing, replacing and upgrading the electrical, plumbing and HVAC systems, and making the building ADA compliant. According to a release from Nixon’s office, the upper floors of the building are closed due to poor conditions, and these renovations will make them available for use once completed.
“This is a building we’re going to invest dollars in,” Nixon said of his choice to speak in front of the Womans Building. “A couple million dollars. It needs new HVAC, it needs sprucing up, let’s not kid ourselves, as well as the coliseum, so we wanted to point out a building that was built in 1910. It’s like a house built in 1910 — you have to take care of it. And that was part of the Build Missouri bond issue. The thought was we should take care of the facilities we have, make sure they serve for years to come.”
Another $1.5 million of the funding will go toward work on the Missouri State Fair Coliseum, which was built in 1906. The upgrades will include repairing the roof and gutters, repairs to the masonry, repainting exterior wooden surfaces, replacing siding, repairing or replacing exterior door frames, replacing exhaust fans, replacing handrails on ramps, replacing wheelchair lift, removing and replacing concrete floors, and updating exit and emergency lighting.
There will also be $1 million in upgrades to the utilities system in the West Campgrounds, funded through the state’s Facility Maintenance Revolving Fund.
These renovations come after last year’s announcement of repairs to the sewer lines at the fairgrounds.
Nixon told reporters the projects are slated to be completed in time for the 2016 fair. Two shelter houses have already been completed on the campgrounds to help fairgoers in case of emergency weather, but more will be constructed next year.
The Build Missouri initiative was passed in the General Assembly earlier this year after Nixon called on legislators to move forward on renovation projects throughout the state.
“These investments are made possible through the new Build Missouri package that was passed with bipartisan support earlier this year,” Nixon said. “The Build Missouri initiative will fund nearly 500 projects across our state and it will create good jobs in every corner of Missouri. Among the projects included are the state capital in Jefferson City, upgrades to our veterans’ homes and state parks, and significant investments at higher education campuses around Missouri.
“It’s important to note this effort was the result of folks coming together from both sides of the aisle, wide range of opinion … Everyone is coming together behind a common goal of leaving our state better than we found it.”
Nicole Cooke can be reached at 660-826-1000 ext. 1482 or @NicoleRCooke.