Minnesota State Fair board OKs nearly $20M in improvements

January 20, 2019 10:43 PM

The board of managers of the Minnesota State Fair has approved nearly $20 million in improvements and maintenance projects for the fairgrounds.

Of that amount, $16 million is earmarked for a major new exhibit complex on the North End of the fairgrounds and $3.4 million for maintenance projects.

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The North End development is under construction. The centerpiece is a new facility with a 12,000-square-foot exhibit hall, which will feature museum-quality exhibits.

“Science and technology and pop culture, we'll have a different one every year,” said Jerry Hammer, the Minnesota State Fair general manager. “It’s going to be fantastic. There's really cool stuff out there in traveling exhibits and they've been available to us for a long time but we didn't have anywhere to do it.”

It will be free to enjoy. The area outside the exhibit hall will be dedicated to recognizing innovation happening not only in Minnesota but around the world.

Hammer said they want to create some permanence in that part of the grounds, which used to showcase farming equipment.

“It was Machinery Hill for many years,” said Tim “Giggles” Weiss, owner of Giggle’s Campfire Grill. “It really has changed.”

Last summer, the Hangar opened. The renovated building focused on craft beer and gave fair-goers another place to eat.

A skate park also drew visitors to the North End. Hammer said it will be moved to Adventure Park this summer to make space for the new development.

“I’m so stoked,” said Giggles, of this latest project. “I’m hoping that it’s going to be more family oriented.”

He told 5 EYEWITNESS NEWS family-friendly exhibits will hopefully draw more customers to the area.

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“We have a few new things cooking for us as well,” said Giggles.

Improvements and maintenance projects approved for the coming year include stall upgrades in the Swine Barn, installation of a new overhead cover for the Exercise Ring in the livestock area and improvements to the restrooms in the Lee & Rose Warner Coliseum.

The board also approved a $1 increase in admission fees for the 2019 fair. Admission prices were last adjusted two years ago.

“The fair can't diminish in any way and the only way that we can keep providing what we do, is to do our best to keep up with costs as they go up,” said Hammer.

The Associated Press contributed to this story.

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