AGRICULTURE

Minnesota State Fair officials plan new north end attraction

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Farm Forum

FALCON HEIGHTS, Minn. (AP) – Minnesota State Fair officials are working on plans for a new attraction on the north end of the fairgrounds, a permanent indoor venue that could include an amphitheater and agricultural pavilion that would serve as a sequel to the successful West End Market expansion.

Fair officials gave a sneak peek at their annual meeting over the weekend. General Manager Jeff Hammer said the area between the Pet Center and the campground along Snelling Avenue needs an anchor.

“Just something permanent and spectacular and wow, so that you get the same kind of neighborhood feeling that you get in the southern part of the grounds,” Hammer told Minnesota Public Radio (http://bit.ly/1PbZ6ge ).

Hammer says the plan isn’t as expansive as the $18 million West End upgrade, but it’s still ambitious and could include attractions the fair hasn’t been able to accommodate before.

“We’ve been talking for 30 years with people like the Smithsonian Institution and the Science Museum of Minnesota and a lot of show producers about bringing things in,” Hammer said. “Every year you change it. So one year it’s the Beatles, the next year it’s interplanetary space travel. And there’s so much of it out there that we’re constantly getting contacted and we’re not able to do much. Well, we will. We’ll have a facility that will work for them.”

The plans remain very preliminary and no budget has been set. The plan could be unveiled as soon as this fall and the venue may open as soon as the 2017 fair.

“An amphitheater has been talked about,” said Brian Tempas of the Cuningham Group, the architectural firm that designed the West End Market. “So it might be 300 to 500 people watching on a stage venue of some kind.”

Another part could include a nod to the agricultural history of a part of the fairgrounds once known as Machinery Hill – a pavilion to highlight the future of agriculture, said Sharon Wessel, the new president of the fair’s governing board.

“It’s a chance to do some more advanced agriculture advocacy,” she said. “Teach them about the future. Where is that trend going?”