State fair attendance, revenue expected to decline

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The collapse of a concert stage that killed five people Saturday likely will prevent Indiana State Fair organizers from meeting this year's attendance and revenue goals for the annual event.

Officials had hoped attendance for the 17-day event that runs through Sunday would hit 1 million for the first time, up from 952,020 visitors last year, according to the fair’s 2010 annual report.

The fair extended its schedule from 12 to 17 days in 2009 and is committed to the longer schedule through at least 2013.

But hitting the goal of 1 million visitors this year seems out of reach. The fair was closed on Sunday following the deadly accident the night before. That closure likely resulted in a loss of more than 60,000 visitors, based on last year’s attendance numbers for the fair's second Sunday.

Monday’s reopening drew 32,466 people—a 19-percent drop from the second Monday of last year, fair spokesman Andy Klotz said.

Fair attendance was also down on Tuesday—8  percent from the same day last year.

The 12-day attendance total through Tuesday was 636,140—a 7-percent decline from last year.

Saturday night’s accident happened when a wind gust estimated at 60 to 70 mph toppled the roof and the metal scaffolding holding lights and other equipment. The stage collapsed onto a crowd of concertgoers awaiting a show by the country act Sugarland.

The fair has since canceled two of its top-billed concerts scheduled for the same stage—a Janet Jackson performance on Wednesday and a Lady Antebellum show on Friday.

“Without question, this will alter the landscape for us in regard to losing two or three shows, and the fact that we’re not going to make money from the show we did save,” Klotz said.

The concert by Train and Maroon 5 has been salvaged for Thursday, but the two groups now will play at Conseco Fieldhouse. The performers, the state fair and Pacers Sports & Entertainment, which operates the fieldhouse, are donating all proceeds from the concert to a fund to benefit victims of the stage collapse.

Total proceeds from the concert could hit $500,000, Klotz said.

The cancellation of the two concerts undoubtedly will hurt fair financials. Concerts are typically one of fair's largest revenue generators, both directly and indirectly.

Between 10,000 and 13,000 tickets had been sold for Lady Antebellum and almost 10,000 for Janet Jackson, Klotz estimated. Fair officials expected a large walk-up crowd would have driven Jackson’s ticket sales even higher, he said.

Those who bought tickets for Sugarland, Lady Antebellum and Janet Jackson can get a full refund at the point of purchase. Fans of Train and Maroon 5 also can get a refund if they’re dissatisfied with their seats at Conseco, Klotz said.

Concerts last year brought the fair $3.5 million, or nearly 30 percent of the fair’s 2010 revenue of $11.9 million. Gate receipts generated $2.9 million, and concessions and midway ticket sales accounted for $2.2 million, according to last year’s annual report.
Klotz declined to speculate how much concert revenue might be off this year. He said a hugely popular Kiss show made 2010 an exceptional year.

“Last year was an aberration,” he said. “We were awesome with our numbers last year.”
In 2010, the fair exceeded its goal of grandstand ticket sales by 19 percent, setting a record, the annual report said.

The fair has assets of $10.3 million, including nearly $5 million in cash.

“We have significant cash reserves,” Klotz said. “We’ve saved for a rainy day.”

Meanwhile, it remained unclear Tuesday whether anyone had inspected the concert stage that toppled over on Saturday, or if anyone was supposed to do so.

Fair officials said they have hired a New York engineering firm to investigate the accident. The Thornton Tomasetti Inc. firm was involved in a similar investigation of the 2007 collapse of the Interstate 35 bridge over the Mississippi River in Minneapolis.



  • maybe so late in the year
    Hey since school starts (it seems) earlier and earlier each year, could it be the last week everyone is in school and parents are back to work. I will go. thundermutt you stay home and pray for that nanny state that you want so bad. you will have it soon enough.
  • Wind, unusual?
    Apparently I live in a different Indiana than Jo St. James. Mine is reality-based: every Indiana thunderstorm I've ever seen has had wind gusts with it.

    I don't consider regular occurrences as "freaks events" or "unforeseeable acts of God." I have no bone to pick with the State Fair or its staff, and sheep have nothing to do with the facts of this case.

    I just won't go anywhere near the state fairgrounds until they provide some minimal assurances that the structures there are safe, and I suspect I'm not the only person who has that (rational) view in light of these terrible circumstances.
  • No guarantees
    In hindsight things could have been done better, but no matter how many inspections or weather policies are in place, accidents and nature can wreak havoc. The crowd might have been directed to a nearby building for shelter. On the walk to that building a freak gust of wind could have picked something up and smashed it into the crowd. It's also possible that that building could have been hit by an intense wind gust which caused damage and injury. The truth is, despite man's best efforts, there ARE no guarantees of safety anywhere.
  • The Deaths Were Preventable
    The state was negligent in this case. Two of those killed were employees covered under OSHA. OSHA has standards, despite the ignorant comments from those in charge about not being required to inspect the stage and rigging. Book it, OSHA requires inspection. These deaths were preventable if the fair people had evacuated the crowd in a timely manner. There should have been a plan for evacuation. The guy at Symphony on the Prairie sure as heck had a plan. Too bad the promoter of the concert had the final word. No one should have been killed.
  • Poor Choice of Words
    I'll bet he wishes he had used a different phrase than "We've saved for a rainy day".
  • What did they expect?
    Perhaps if they were to actually promise guests to do SOMETHING to prevent this kind of tragedy from EVER happening again, more people might come back. But to deem it an 'act of God' and say you're just going to go with your same old evacuation plan and procedures....is NOT going to instill any confidence in your judgment or your facilities. It's akin to saying: whoops, sorry about that. Now let's get back to work.
  • Fair Safety
    The wind gust was an unusual event. Not sure what "Thundermutt" is going on about. Sounds like there is something else bothering this poster and it has nothing to do with the fair. Maybe the poster is afraid of attack sheep hanging out in the animal exhibits. Let's get out and support the folks who have all the exhibits. The fair is more than concerts. It's a time for families to walk around and see the agriculture and crafts of the Hoosier State.
    • Structure isn't the issue
      The fall-off in attendance is predictable. People don't trust the State Fair and won't go back if they think they are placing themselves and their family in danger.

      The engineering study is a false-flag.

      The only question to be asked is: why didn't the Indiana State Fair management follow a proper emergency preparedness plan, and why didn't they heed the NWS severe thunderstorm warning?

      This disaster was caused by a human failing, not an "act of God", freak weather, or an engineering problem.
    • State Liability Capped At $5 Million
      When it comes to injuries or death on state property, the law stipulates that the amount paid out to each person cannot exceed $700,000, with an overall cap of $5 million, 6News' Rafael Sanchez reported.


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