State Fair approves $3.8M for next phase of Pepsi Coliseum renovation


The Indiana State Fair Commission says it's time to rehab the 70-year-old Pepsi Coliseum. It means the building will soon shut its doors to undergo a transformation.

Fans can get up close and personal with the Ice at the Coliseum, but those same intimate features could actually become safety liabilities.

"When you're walking around the Coliseum, you could be walking right next to hockey players, you could be walking right next to draft horses which are coming in the arena to perform for the fair," said Cindy Hoye, Indiana State Fair executive director.

This fall, the doors will close for construction, meaning a loss of half a million dollars. In 2014, when the renovated facility opens for the fair's headline concert, it's likely to be a much smaller affair. The facility will only seat up to 9,000.

"In this market an 8,000- to 9,000-seat venue is perfect. We're not in the business of competing with the other venues. What we're in the business to do is to restore this product. It's an $89 million economic impact," said Hoye.

There will be no suites or club level. It's just a historic Indiana landmark being brought up to code, and as some put it, getting the "queen" of the fairgrounds in good operating condition for the future.

Forty percent of the commission's revenue comes from the rental of the Pepsi Coliseum.

Thursday, the State Fair Commission approved the expenditure and tax exempt reimbursement of up to $3.8 million to move the proposed renovation of the Coliseum into the next phase.

"It provides an opportunity for reimbursement of the funds that are expended before the financing is put together," said Hoye.

"We've got to get on with this. Funds other than this are not there to get going on our planning," said Ted McKinney, State Fair Commission.

"This has been a very frugal and responsible design," said Andre Lacy, fair commission chairman.

The commission has no financing plan in place for the renovation project, but the building must be brought into compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act.

The Coliseum will become the venue for fair concerts once the renovations are complete. Next year the concerts will be held at the Banker's Life Fieldhouse downtown. That decision was made following the August 2011 stage scaffolding collapse at the State Fair grandstand that killed seven and injured many more.

Also, commissioners say they expect to spend another $500,000 this year on the stage collapse investigation, pushing the total to $1.8 million.