After a record-setting year for attendance, the Great Minnesota Get-Together is set to grow even bigger. And so are its admission prices.
The Minnesota State Fair’s board on Sunday approved nearly $20 million in improvements and maintenance projects. Most of the money will pay for a new exhibit complex on the north end of the grounds, where Machinery Hill once dominated.
The complex, now under construction, will feature a 12,000-square-foot exhibit hall to house annually changing museum-quality exhibits.
Very little on the north end was permanent, said Jerry Hammer, the fair’s general manager. “Now we are bringing some of that permanency there, creating a whole new neighborhood.”
The board also approved a $1 increase in admission fees for the 2019 fair, citing rising costs in facilities upkeep and services such as the free Park & Ride system.
Tickets are available at last year’s pre-fair prices through Feb. 1 on the fair’s website.
Before factoring in the capital improvement costs, the expense the fair took on for every visitor last year was about $18, Hammer said. That amount is subsidized by what the fair takes in for food and space rental. Admission prices usually rise every few years.
“I’d still stack the value of the fair ticket up against anyone else,” Hammer said. “We’ve always given you more than your money’s worth and we’ll continue to do that.”
More than 2 million visitors attended the fair during its 12-day run last year. Hammer said there’s room for even more people, especially if the new neighborhood helps distribute the throngs.
“The fair was actually more crowded 30 years ago in the southern part because not that many people went to the north,” Hammer said. “We have 322 acres and they weren’t being utilized. Now they are.”
Of the nearly $20 million, $16.3 million will be spent on capital work this year. Most of that is earmarked for the new north end neighborhood, which will feature displays that highlight the best of Minnesota innovation, industry, agriculture and arts, Hammer said.
“We’ve been doing that elsewhere around the grounds but not like we will here,” he said.
Large capital projects come every five or six years, Hammer said. The board managers have discussed the need for permanent structures on the ground’s north side for a decade.
It’s been a focus for the past few years, after the completion of the West End Market.
“It’s a first for us to create a brand-new neighborhood,” Hammer said, adding that eager fairgoers can drive by and get a sense of the scale of the exhibit space now that construction is underway. “It’s going to be really cool,” he said.
Other improvements and maintenance projects approved for the coming year include upgrades to the stalls in the Swine Barn, installation of a new overhead cover for the exercise ring in the livestock area and improvements to the restrooms in the Lee & Rose Warner Coliseum.
The 2019 Minnesota State Fair runs Aug. 22-Labor Day, Sept. 2.
2019 State Fair admission prices:
Regular gate admission (up $1 from 2018): • For adults ages 13 to 64 : $15. • For children ages 5 to 12 and seniors 65 and older: $13. • Children 4 and under are admitted free. • Through Feb. 1, pre-fair discount admission tickets are on sale at 2018 prices of $11 for all ages; from Feb. 2 to Aug. 21, discount tickets will be $12.