Mayor pushes for annexing Illinois State Fairgrounds

Updated 2/2/2018 4:24 PM

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. -- The mayor of Springfield says he's lobbying Illinois legislators to let the city annex the State Fairgrounds and use some city sales tax revenue generated there to repair several of its buildings.

The Coliseum hosts annual horse shows and is among the buildings needing emergency repairs, The State Journal-Register reported. It has been closed since 2016 after structural damage to its roof made it unsafe for use.

Mayor Jim Langfelder said local lodging establishments have told him that canceling horse shows has meant a 25 percent reduction to their business.

"Once you lose (the horse shows), it's hard to get them back," Langfelder said. "It's absolutely an economic hit for us."

Gov. Bruce Rauner created the Illinois Fairgrounds Foundation in 2016 to raise private funds for repairs to the Coliseum. Foundation board chairman John Slayton said it has raised about $30,000 so far.

Slayton said that the foundation hasn't made a decision about Langfelder's idea, but that its focus is on repairing the Coliseum.

State Rep. Tim Butler, R-Springfield, said he would need more details about Langfelder's proposal before making a decision.

"I'm open to all sorts of ideas," Butler said. "... Specifically for this idea of annexing the fairgrounds into the city, you need everyone at the table talking about it - the county, the city and the state."

Langfelder is also proposing an exemption in Springfield to a state law that only allows changes in tax collection at the beginning of January and June.

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