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GRANDSTAND

A variety of racing activities were popular events at the fair and a larger grandstand was needed by the mid-1920s. Allocations were made for $125,000 in 1925, $150,000 in 1926, and $50,000 in 1927 by the Board of State Fair Managers to replace the wooden structure with a larger concrete, brick and steel grandstand that seated 10,000 fairgoers.

The structure was built in two phases. The original portion, which was 256 feet long with an audience capacity of 6,600, was completed by 1928. Hutchinson Foundry & Steel provided the steel beams for construction of the roof structure. Additional expenditures were allocated to allow the completion of an addition of 194 feet of grandstand for a total audience capacity of 10,000. The Kansas State Industrial Reformatory provided prison labor for the construction.

The finished grandstand was 448 feet long and 100 feet wide. A steel roof covered an area of an acre and a quarter. The construction required 23,800 sacks of cement, a “mountain" of sand, 225 tons of structural steel, 178,300 pounds of I-Plate roof deck, 100,238 pounds of steel joists, 274,300 pounds of reinforcing steel and 309,000 bricks (58,000 face and 251,000 common).

The 1929-1930 State Fair Biennial Report notes that, “A part of the money was spent in placing toilets in the Grandstand instead of outside. Public Comfort facilities are naturally expected by the State Fair visitors and a lack of same or an insufficient number brings disgust and consternation on the part of the public.”

The grandstand was designed, not only for public seating, but to house exhibition space. The ground floor had 44,800 square feet for exhibits and the mezzanine floor provided 21,760 square feet. The race track, a flat, dirt oval, remained.

State Senator E.E. Frizzell, of Larned, was president of the fair board at the time and was also the superintendent of the State Reformatory in Hutchinson. He arranged for convict labor during the construction. The original wooden grandstand was carefully dismantled with the wood beams and nails reused in other fairground projects.

Major events occurred at Fair time, but the grandstand and race track were used throughout the year for a variety of racing activities. September 1914 newspaper articles indicate that automobile races of “national scope” were held. Harness racing, horse racing and dog racing have all occurred at various times. Public entertainment was also provided in front of the grandstand as early as 1915. Public performances during the annual state fair led to the necessity for a stage. In 1940, the State Fair Board allocated $26,765.85 to build a concrete stage, dressing rooms and restrooms in front of the grandstand in the center of the race track.

As the fair grew in popularity, so did the use of the stage for public performances. In 1965, a new stage was installed immediately in front of the grandstand. This modern stage had hydraulic lifts to raise and lower the performance area. This stage was removed in 2005.

The racetrack remains in use today for automobile races during non-fair, tractor pulls, etc. The grandstand was completely rehabilitated in 1989 with a new buff brick facade. New ADA seating was added in 2006.

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