A proposal seeks donations instead of taxpayer money to make badly needed repairs to the historic Illinois State Fairgrounds in Springfield, reported the State Journal-Register.
The newspaper said:
Legislation filed by state Sen. Andy Manar, D-Bunker Hill, would allow the agriculture department to form a state fairground foundation that would solicit private funds from individuals and businesses to help make major repairs and upgrades to Illinois’ state fairgrounds in Springfield and DuQuoin. […]
Bob Flider, the state agriculture director, said the CDB hasn’t been immune from the state’s fiscal problems as it struggles to spread thinning resources among the many capital projects that need to be done.
“We’ve got about a $30 million list of projects to be done,” Flider said. “And when you’re looking at the investment that needs to be made to fix the roofs, fix the roads, fix the plumbing, make fire safety improvements, etc., it’s very cost prohibitive when we are competing with prison needs, road and bridge repairs and community water systems.”
He said the fairgrounds are able to “just tread water” with the amount of funding the department gets, an amount that often varies widely year to year.
The condition of the fairgrounds took a nosedive during the tenure of now-disgraced (and imprisoned) governor Rod Blagojevich, who showed little interest.
Current Gov. Pat Quinn reportedly has a “soft spot” in his heart for the fairgrounds, and has allocated more money for them — but not before some buildings suffered from lack of upkeep.
However, Illinois government remains strapped, and the money isn’t there for the overhaul that’s needed. That’s where private individuals and businesses would come in.
The fairgrounds seem like they’d be an ideal money magnet. The Illinois State Fair has occupied that spot in north Springfield since 1894 — predating Route 66 by three decades. So it’s not hyperbole when Flider says:
“You look at the historic buildings out there, the generations of families who have been coming out to show their livestock and promote agriculture, it’s really a part of our heritage.”
In addition to Route 66 running right by the fairgrounds, it fostered the rise of one of Mother Road’s most iconic restaurants, the Cozy Dog Drive-In. Founder Ed Waldmire sold his Cozy Dogs at the fair in 1946 and spurred their enduring popularity.
(Hat tip to Dave Todd; images of the Illinois State Fairgrounds entrance and its Coliseum by Randy von Liski via Flickr)