Biggest State Fair transformation in decades gets go-ahead

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There's a wicked chill in the air, but that hasn't prevented state officials from thinking ahead to the warm days of summer and the 2014 Minnesota State Fair.

The Pioneer Press reports the Minnesota State Agricultural Society Board of Managers has approved a capital improvements budget that earmarks $14 million for the fair's new West End Market and transit hub on the old Heritage Square site.

Located in the northwest corner of the fairgrounds, the West End Market project eats up the majority of the $15.6 million budget for capital improvements and maintenance for this year.

The budget was approved by the board over the weekend.

The Star Tribune says the West End Market project is one of the biggest transformations the State Fair has seen since a flurry of Depression-era projects in the 1930s.

Details of the project were unveiled by State Fair officials in October. The West End Market name was picked from 1,300 entries submitted through Facebook in the fall.

Remnants of the Heritage Square Site will still have a home in the new space, including a 150-year-old-cabin, the old North St. Paul train depot, and Royal American train cars. New additions to the area include an amphitheater, and State Fair history and heritage center.

A restored steel arch dating back to 1933 will greet people as they enter the transit hub.

First named the Young America Center, Heritage Square was initially intended to last no more than 10 years when it was built in 1964.

Construction on the West End Market is underway and expected to be completed in time for the State Fair, which runs from Aug. 21 through Labor Day, Sept. 1.

The Star Tribune says the board also approved $40 million operating budget for this year's Great Minnesota Get-Together, which includes $3.2 million for agriculture, education and creative contests and displays, and $1.5 million for free entertainment.

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