Iowa State Fair Grandstand renovation underway

Local News

DES MOINES – It’s gone. The old stage at the Iowa State Fair Grandstand has been taken down.

The demolition is part of a nine-month renovation project. So what exactly is the reason behind it and how will it all get done before the first day of next year’s Iowa State Fair?

Crews are hard at work this week, demolishing the old Grandstand stage to make way for a bigger, better one. There will also be 4,000 more seats — something local fairgoers say is needed.

“I think that’s wonderful, it’s a really good idea,” said Des Moines resident and fairgoer Andrea McDannald. “I’ve always thought there’s not enough seats there, and I think it’d be a great idea with the kind of acts they’re bringing in.”

Attracting A-list acts is something the Iowa State Fair has struggled with in the past. They are hoping this renovation changes that.

“Many of the acts today have much bigger sets that they need space for and they’re very frustrated when they came to our much smaller stage, kind of antiquated equipment,” said Mindy Williamson, marketing director for the Iowa State Fair. “This new stage will allow for them to set up like they do in other venues.”

The project is set to finish on opening day of the 2018 Iowa State Fair. Even with weather delays possible, Williamson says crews will do whatever it takes to meet the deadline.

“We always have a goal of completing our construction projects between fairs and this year is no different,” Williamson said. “We will work and make sure everything is complete and ready for those gates to open.”

Bigger acts and better seating are expected to boost attendance. That means more traffic in the area. People who live nearby are used to that, but do not want it to get any worse.

“I think if you live here you pretty much know what you’re dealing with so, it might be a little bit crazier, people need to brace themselves,” said Des Moines resident Valerie Oberender.

Other Iowans who live near the fairgrounds, like Nancy Phillips, sell lawn space for parking. Phillips says she is excited to see a boom in business with potentially more fairgoers coming through her neighborhood.

“I really think it probably will,” Phillips said. “I was kind of surprised that they expanded the camp grounds a few years ago but they have no expanded their parking area, so we are looking at a lot of people.”

Williamson says that excitement will be felt by all fairgoers.

“I think you’re going to be wowed by what the new stage will do for the acts,” Williamson said.

The construction will not impact the historic Grandstand brick structure, which underwent its own renovations back in the 1990s.

There is no word yet on how much this project will cost. The Grandstand renovation is part of a three-year plan across the Iowa State Fairgrounds. The next project is a sports area, but there are no details on that yet.

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