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The iconic Michigan State Fair Coliseum meets its end

Dan Austin
The front façade of the Michigan State Fairground’s Coliseum building, which will be preserved for reuse in a new transit center for the city of Detroit.

The Michigan State Fairgrounds' Coliseum was once home to everything from rodeos and cattle shows to concerts and circuses. But before the building could reach its centennial birthday, it was dismantled.

The site is to be used for the construction of a new transit center for the city of Detroit, an $18.6 million project. It is expected to be completed later this year, per the Detroit Free Press.

For John Minnis, author of the 2010 book Michigan State Fair, this renovation plan marks the end of an era.

“I'm really sad and disappointed. I think we could have done better to try to preserve it.”

Dan Austin
Once home to a variety of events and performances, the now-empty Coliseum is being dismantled to make way for a new transit center.

While the Coliseum may have lived out its days as a venue, Minnis thinks the space could have been reused in a different capacity.

“Maybe we couldn't use it as an arena anymore, but even if it had been repurposed for some type of storage facility, but you kept the iconic facade and the rainbow trusses and stuff and the marker. At least it would have been something,” he said.

The planned transit center is part of a larger redevelopment plan that began in 2020.

“The vision was for a massive development of kind of an industrial campus with an Amazon warehouse at its center, a 3.8 million square foot Amazon warehouse,” Amy Elliot Bragg said. Bragg is the special projects editor at Crain's Detroit Business.

Bragg explained that the fairgrounds site is largely vacant land, and that the Amazon warehouse was built in a vacant lot. She said it still isn't clear why the city chose the part of the site that housed the Coliseum and other historic buildings for the transit center. Developers plan to repurpose the historic dairy cattle building for the new transit center.

“If I had to go out on a limb and wager a guess, I would say that the Coliseum is just a really large building and making a reuse plan for a building of that scale requires a lot of creativity and imagination and of course, would require money, financial resources."

The front facade of the Coliseum building is being saved, and will be part of the new transit complex. But demolition on the building is already underway.

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Lucas is a senior at Michigan State University studying professional and public writing. He has previously worked as a co-director of editing for VIM, an MSU fashion magazine. An aspiring music journalist, Lucas dreams of getting paid to go to concerts. He is also a screenwriter. When he’s not working, he can be found walking around aimlessly, listening to either punk rock or Kacey Musgraves.
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