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The Illinois Fairgrounds Foundation is basically a joke

Monday, Jul 30, 2018 - Posted by Rich Miller

* Last month, I took you back in time to show how the Illinois State Fair Foundation has been an abject failure. In 2017, the foundation’s chairman set a goal of raising either $2-3 million or $3-5 million a year, depending on the month he was making the prediction. More than $185 million is needed at the fairgrounds for infrastructure improvement.

The SJ-R updated us yesterday

The latest financial report filed by the foundation with the attorney general’s office shows income in 2017 was just over $32,000.

* And still no word about this promise by the foundation’s chairman in March

“We are extremely close to an agreement with an ag association in Illinois on naming rights for the Coliseum. They are ready to go, but they want to make sure of the timeline for the repairs to the Coliseum,” he said.

Money to fix the Coliseum was appropriated in this fiscal year’s budget.

The Illinois Fairgrounds Foundation was launched in August of 2016 and raised a whopping $100 that year, according to documents filed with the attorney general’s office.

* Meanwhile, Archer Daniels Midland Company, Caterpillar and CME Group - which all have strong agriculture ties to Illinois - gave the Illinois Governor’s Mansion Association at least a million dollars each, as did three separate branches of the Funderburg family and the governor himself. John Deere contributed between $250,000 and $499,999, as did JB Pritzker’s family foundation.

Such priorities.


  1. - Fair weather fan - Monday, Jul 30, 18 @ 11:53 am:

    I remember the guv saying that several corporations were just itching to give money to the state fair but had no legal way to contribute. I laughed out loud then, and I’m still chuckling.

  2. - Da Big Bad Wolf - Monday, Jul 30, 18 @ 11:56 am:

    Maybe they could call some girl scouts with extra cookies laying around?

  3. - Downstate - Monday, Jul 30, 18 @ 11:57 am:

    State fairgrounds are a ripe opportunity for corporate sponsorship of various buildings.

  4. - Michelle Flaherty - Monday, Jul 30, 18 @ 12:01 pm:

    How about we extend the State Fair beer gardens to the mansion and the vacant lot across the street?

  5. - City Zen - Monday, Jul 30, 18 @ 12:15 pm:

    See you at the Wisconsin State Fair.

  6. - JS Mill - Monday, Jul 30, 18 @ 12:29 pm:

    =State fairgrounds are a ripe opportunity for corporate sponsorship of various buildings.=

    Only the corporations just don’t seem to see it that way.

  7. - wordslinger - Monday, Jul 30, 18 @ 12:31 pm:

    Sounds like the governor put the arm on the likes of CME, CAT, ADM, etc., for the mansion, but not the fairgrounds.

    Priorities, indeed.

    Why doesn’t Rauner pluck somebody out of the Wisconsin or Iowa state fair crews to hustle up some corporate money? Their corporate sponsorships are robust, to say the least, compared to Illinois.

  8. - ISU grad - Monday, Jul 30, 18 @ 12:37 pm:

    I believe that the governor is killing the state fair slowly with a purposeful death. After all the fair is just entertainment for us poor white trash, not for the billionaires he hangs with.

  9. - Lucky Pierre - Monday, Jul 30, 18 @ 12:40 pm:

    Great idea, let’s duplicate the successful programs that have revived our neighboring state’s fairgrounds.

    What is the biggest difference?

    In Illinois machine politics and union labor rules dominate all control of the projects.

    It turns out corporations don’t like to waste their money on bloated projects

  10. - a drop in - Monday, Jul 30, 18 @ 12:51 pm:

    “We are extremely close to an agreement with an ag association in Illinois on naming rights for the Coliseum. They are ready to go, but they want to make sure of the timeline for the repairs to the Coliseum,”

    By the time they are ‘ready to go’, the Coliseum will resemble the other one in Rome.

  11. - Keyser Soze - Monday, Jul 30, 18 @ 1:14 pm:

    If there is a grand plan to modernize the fairgrounds, it has not been seen. Hence, would be donors are seemingly betting on an unknown outcome. The availability of renderings and plans by a reputable architect/planner might spark an uptick in interest with the big money players. Road paving and roof repair doesn’t generate much in the way of excitement.

  12. - Anonymous - Monday, Jul 30, 18 @ 1:15 pm:

    It’s a hard sell, asking corporations to take on a distressed property like the Fair, when the uncertainties and turnover of the 4-year election cycle mean their investment could be lost in a blink. Also, they don’t have much input into the marketing, they are being asked to basically make a charity donation and then be satisfied their logo is on something but they don’t have much say in what else is done or how things are managed. Charity and tax write-offs can only take you so far. What corporations want is to make something with their name on it an actual revenue generator.

    And here’s the thing: the Fair never was meant to be a =revenue generator: the best you can hope for is that it pays it’s bills and doesn’t carry a deficit to the next year. The purpose is not revenue generation. The purpose is outreach and education and marketing Illinois Agriculture. The purpose is to be the great display of the state’s ag bounty to the world, and to promote progress in ag technology and operations by informing and educating the farmers and livestock producers, constantly competing and showing to perfect and improve the breeds of the animals we raise for the world markets. It’s not about grandstand shows, it’s not about beer tents and greasy food stands and carnivals, or selling ginsu knives and shamwows or watching the diving shows… all of that is secondary, peripheral to the point of it all.

    You may love some or all of that peripheral stuff, but that’s really not what the Fair is about. Never has been. Too often the legislature and the public and the management of the fairs have forgotten that fundamental tenet.

    If you concentrate on the true purpose of the fair and fund and support and nurture that portion, keep the actual physical grounds in good order and repair, the peripheral stuff will be handled by the Invisible Hand of the Market.

  13. - Give Me A Break - Monday, Jul 30, 18 @ 1:36 pm:

    Anon at 1:15, I somewhat agree with you but as Illinois has became less populated by those who earn their pay via ag, the State Fair has become more than what the original purpose, it had to happen.

    What you described above is the Farm Show that takes places every year in Iowa or Illinois. The State fair can’t sustain being just about ag anymore.

  14. - Anonimity - Monday, Jul 30, 18 @ 1:56 pm:

    Maybe a scratch-off lottery ticket could solve this problem?

  15. - Rich Miller - Monday, Jul 30, 18 @ 2:09 pm:

    ===It turns out corporations don’t like to waste their money on bloated projects ===

    And yet $15 million was raised for the mansion with union work rules.

  16. - Steve Rogers - Monday, Jul 30, 18 @ 2:18 pm:

    Anonymous at 1:15, I don’t disagree with you, but state government has moved toward the economic viability model over public service and education. In an ideal world, the state fair doesn’t need to make money. In the current real world, it does.

  17. - Arthur Andersen - Monday, Jul 30, 18 @ 2:25 pm:

    Anonymity, Rauner just signed a bill to do another scratch off for fallen police officers’ families and a couple other law enforcement purposes. At the same time, the Lottery observed that the five existing scratchoffs have all fallen short of projected revenues.

    I don’t know, given those facts, that a scratchoff for fair facilities would be in high demand.

  18. - flea - Monday, Jul 30, 18 @ 2:35 pm:

    It bugs me that all the ag groups and folks who complain about the shape of the fairgrounds are all talk and no action. Especially the big shot famers organization.

  19. - Norseman - Monday, Jul 30, 18 @ 2:36 pm:

    One thing for sure, the discussion surrounding the Illinois State Fair Foundation has certainly generated a lot of fair animal byproducts.

  20. - DuPage Saint - Monday, Jul 30, 18 @ 2:44 pm:

    185 million just for infrastructure repairs? Seems like a lot of money. Maybe should take the whole thing down and start over

  21. - Blocked? - Monday, Jul 30, 18 @ 2:51 pm:

    =185 million just for infrastructure repairs? Seems like a lot of money. Maybe should take the whole thing down and start over=

    You mean move it to DuPage or Lake County?

  22. - DuPage Saint - Monday, Jul 30, 18 @ 3:01 pm:

    No I mean leave it in Springfield. The DuPage County fair should have been shut down 50 years ago. When a county no longer has working farms I think it is time to move on from county fairs

  23. - City Zen - Monday, Jul 30, 18 @ 3:09 pm:

    The Hyatt Dirt Show Arena

  24. - I Miss Bentohs - Monday, Jul 30, 18 @ 4:19 pm:

    Until Ag has to spend Capital on Capital instead of salaries (including Admin), why would anyone help them? They misspent over $100M in less than 20 years.

    And can we have 1 fair please? What a silly waste (of course no one knows how much as only one fair has to report if it was profitable).

  25. - Arthur Andersen - Monday, Jul 30, 18 @ 5:28 pm:

    Bentohs, can you tell us a bit more about your position that DoA misspent $100 million of Capital funds on “salaries (including Admin)?

    That’s not easy to do, and besides I don’t remember a fraction of that amount being appropriated for Capital in the recent past. So please, tell us more.

  26. - Rabid - Tuesday, Jul 31, 18 @ 7:10 am:

    Lucky, corporations use union labor for their projects. They choose to get the job done right and on time

  27. - Rabid - Tuesday, Jul 31, 18 @ 8:07 am:

    Corporations don’t waste their money on nonunion contractors. Purina and Alcoa in right to work Iowa demand union labor for their projects

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