$20 million in State Fair improvements includes new exhibit hall on north side

Image 1 of 2

It’s hard to believe anyone could be thinking about the Great Minnesota Get-Together when it’s this cold out, but for a small group of people, the State Fair is top of mind year-round.

“This is all about creating new experiences, new things,” said Jerry Hammer, general manager of the Minnesota State Fair. “The traditional stuff is great, but we need to do more than that. We need to add to it.”

The Minnesota State Fair Sunday announced $20 million in improvements and maintenance projects for the Fairgrounds approved this week. The board approved $16.3 million in capital work, $16 million of which is being earmarked for a brand new exhibit.

The remaining $3.4 million will go toward maintenance projects including a cover for the exercise ring in the livestock area, improvements to the restrooms at the coliseum and lighting, fire, paint, sewer, street, sidewalk and landscape upgrades throughout the fairgrounds.

Sunday, Hammer stood in front of the site of the $16 million project on the north end of the fairgrounds.

The 12,000 square foot exhibit hall will be home to mobile museum exhibits while the plaza out front will include features that pay tribute to Minnesota innovators and trailblazers.

“It will have a lot of high tech capability and it will give us an opportunity to bring in something brand new and different every year,” Hammer said.

Fair officials have worked the last 15 years on attracting more people to the north end of the grounds, but the former “Machinery Hill” neighborhood lacked an anchor building.

“There’s a lot of history, a lot of historic architecture, but it never made it up this far because it was all farm machinery, but we’re changing that,” he added.

The prep work, however, wasn’t necessarily easy or cheap.

“Because this was all farm machinery here, there was no infrastructure at all,” Hammer said. “So, the last five years especially, we’ve been making our way north with electricity, plumbing, sewer, water and all that.”

The building could create the perfect palate for the face of the fair’s future.