The state has accepted a $10.2 million bid from a Springfield-based contractor to complete much-needed repairs on the Coliseum at the Illinois State Fairgrounds.
R.D. Lawrence Construction Co., the same general contractor that led the renovation of the Illinois Governor's Mansion, beat out two other bidders to win the job. The contract was awarded Friday. The company hopes to begin construction in the next few weeks.
"I think everyone's elated with the fact that movement has begun on the renovation repairs," said John Slayton, chairman of the Illinois Fairgrounds Foundation.
The Coliseum — built in 1901 and home to horse shows and other events — was closed in 2016 when engineers found it structurally unsafe. Among the hazards that have been identified: corroding steel support beams, missing screws and bolts in support beams, multiple roof leaks, water damage, peeling paint and missing wood planks.
A main feature of the renovation will be a new roof.
Funding for repairs will come from the $30 million allocated by the General Assembly in the budget passed last year for repairs at state fairgrounds in Springfield and Du Quoin. Total rehabilitation needs at the state's two fairgrounds has been estimated at $185 million.
With the goal of having the Coliseum reopened for this year's fair, R.D. Lawrence president John Goetz said his crew has been given a July 20 target date for completion, with incentives offered if they finish early. To meet the deadline, the company will likely have two, 10-hour shifts per day, six days a week.
While the repairs will take care of the building's structural problems, an additional $2 million to $2.5 million is needed for heating, air conditioning and ventilation systems. Slayton said the Illinois Fairgrounds Foundation, a not-for-profit foundation established by Gov. Bruce Rauner in 2016 to raise money for repairs, will continue collecting donations to help with additional work.
Though the foundation had largely struggled to raise funds since its creation, Rauner and his wife, Diana, through their family foundation, donated $1 million to it in August, with the money to be used toward the effort to renovate the Coliseum.
The donation also gave the Rauners naming rights on the building for 10 years. The name will be determined by the outcome of a competition among members of Illinois 4-H, FFA and the Junior Horseman's Council. Slayton said more than 80 suggested names were received, with the winning entries (two similar names) to be announced sometime in the next week.
Additionally, a portion of ticket sales for incoming Gov. J.B. Pritzker's inauguration celebration, to be held Monday at the Exposition Building on the fairgrounds, will go toward the foundation.