Preserving an Icon: The Indiana State Fair Coliseum

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Preserving an Icon: The Indiana State Fair Coliseum

Opened to great fanfare in 1939, the Pepsi Coliseum was the premier public assembly venue in the state of Indiana for decades. It has hosted countless events for more than 70 years, including the only performances ever held in Indiana by the Beatles.

While the past seven decades have given the Coliseum a rich and diverse history, they have also seen the facility descend into a state of disrepair and unable to meet the demands of a sports and entertainment industry with needs that have drastically changed.

The design team of Populous and Browning Day provided a balance of national sports and event expertise and strong local and historic preservation knowledge. The design team approached this renovation from a holistic perspective examining existing conditions, consulting with all of the building’s user groups, and using their combined extensive industry expertise. The charge was to develop the best solution to address the challenges of an aging facility and bring it up to par with similar venues, while maintaining its architectural and historical significance.

The result of the $52 million renovation project is stunning. The Coliseum had a grand opening in April and will take center stage in August, with the 2014 Indiana State Fair declared to be the “Year of the Coliseum.” Firmly positioned for growth and success, the Coliseum boasts new features such as a modern-sound system, an overhead LED video scoreboard with a matching video ribbon board, double-tiered seating bowl, and a second-floor bar area with view into the arena. All these state-of-the-art amenities will elevate the fans’ experience and allow them to feel completely immersed in the action.

Browning Day’s team of architects and historic preservation specialists, led by Greg Jacoby and Jonathan Young, strived to preserve and enhance the iconic elements of the coliseum, including restoration of the detailed brick and limestone exterior. The design included replacing 40,000 failing glass bock windows that provide natural light to the interior of the building with an identical match, while maintaining the character of the exterior. Inside, an entire section of historic seats has been restored to its original condition. The expanded lobby with its terrazzo floor and the original ticket window grills, used as decoration in the lobby, will revive memories of the old coliseum. Cindy Hoye, the Executive Director of the Indiana State Fair Commission said

“One of the most amazing things about the renovation is that the building retained its historic, iconic feel, and the natural lighting inside the arena is incredible just like it was when it originally opened in 1939.”

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