A total internal transformation is underway at the Indiana State Fair Coliseum.
"We actually gutted the whole inside of the building. This was nothing but a shell. We rebuilt from the ground up," Justin Armstrong, director of advancement for the Indiana State Fair Commission and Foundation, said during a recent hard hat tour of the facility.
He says the total cost for the renovation is $63 million - $3 million for the outside, $50 million for the inside and an additional $10 million for a new practice rink, which opened earlier this year.
The Coliseum was a WPA project constructed between 1936 and 1939 and had operated on 1939 technology until this renovation. Armstrong says what people will notice when they enter the new facility is a second floor concourse - allowing spectators to move to their seats and concession areas without being stopped by teams or animals being taken onto the floor of the arena.
Armstrong says generations of Hoosiers have visited the Coliseum for events ranging from ABA and NBA basketball, high school games, professional hockey, graduations, animal shows and concerts including the Beatles and Jimi Hendrix.
Armstrong is particularly pleased with the new hockey floor.
"We'll be running about three and a-half miles of piping here that you pump the chiller through and it gets the concrete really cold," he said. "And the colder - the better ice."
Armstrong says the Coliseum is known for having some of the best ice in the state for skating.
One of the benefits of the renovation is being able to transform the space more efficiently. Armstrong says they'll be able to go from a playing a professional hockey game to hosting an NCAA basketball game in about four hours. The turnaround time to lay down the hardwood floor or prepare for another event will make the facility more economically sound.
Another new feature will be a state-of-the-art scoreboard. Each of the four sides will boast an 87 1/2 square foot LED screen.
Armstrong says, though new, the coliseum will have a familiar feel. The tile on the walls is the same as the original construction, and efforts were made to make sure the entryway is true to original as well. There also is one special section of 96 authentic seats.
"We stripped them down and refinished them and powder-coated the metal frames," Armstrong said. "One of the things we heard from people was 'don't lose the ambiance' which is why you see the same tiles and all that. But we also took a whole section of seats and dedicated that to the original Coliseum seats."
The Coliseum renovation is to be complete next spring – with the grand reopening set for the 2014 Indiana State Fair.