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Expo 2050 Master Plan

Background

In July 2019, Governor DeWine formed the Expo 2050 Task Force to recommend a long-term vision for the Ohio Expo Center. After much review and work, the group determined the next path forward was to secure a third-party to embark on a Master Plan for the facility. This work was completed during the 2022 calendar year, in partnership with the Expo 2050 Task Force, the Ohio Facilities Construction Commission, and a team of renowned third-party consultants with experience in the fair, convention, and livestock facility industries. In 2023, this work pivoted from the Master Planning effort to architecture, design, and construction - work that continues today.

Master Plan
Wellogy was assisted by partners Populous, CSL International, EDGE Landscape Architecture, Korda Engineering, Bennett Engineering, and Concord Addis. Steps that went into the development of the proposal included:
  • Benchmarking – conducted research on markets, facilities, and fairs across the country, including structure, budget, size, parking availability, and more. 
  • Facility Assessment – assessed each building, thoroughly reviewing the current structures, utilities, and infrastructure, to identify any necessary renovations, and analyzed each building’s suitability for current and future events. 
  • Site Utilization – reviewed existing and prospective event needs, along with the current frequency that many buildings are in use for set-up, tear-down, or event days. 
  • Stakeholder Research – interviewed and surveyed more than 90 stakeholders from approximately 40 different organizations, including event holders, agency partners, agricultural commodity groups, youth organizations, Expo 2050 Task Force members, legislative and community partners, Ohio Expositions Commission members and staff, vendors, sponsors, staff, The Ohio State University, Haslam Sports Group and Columbus Crew SC, the Ohio History Connection, the city of Columbus, and safety and security partners.

Long-Term, Phased Approach

Over many years in the future, the full scope of the Master Plan would modernize the facility with renovation or demolition of several buildings. By taking a phased approach that will make impactful changes with projected completion in 2026, our goal is that the many other elements of the long-range Master Plan can still happen in the years to come.

Phase 1 Improvements

Thanks to the generous support of the General Assembly, the first phase of renovations to the Ohio Expo Center & State Fairgrounds began in the fall of 2023. The renovations will include a new entry gate, new and renovated buildings, an improved navigational experience, and vital unseen underground infrastructure improvements. Priorities include the five projects listed below, and included the complete demolition of the Maintenance Administration Building, Ohio Building, and Buckeye Building, as well as the partial demolition of the Ag & Hort. Building with an historic archway to remain as an homage to the past in the new Town Square Area.

*Note: the images below are conceptual designs only and are not necessarily reflective of the final designs
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Town Square

A new open space referred to as the “Town Square” is a blank canvas in the center of the grounds to be used by non-fair events to best accommodate their unique needs and improve flow. During the Ohio State Fair, the “Town Square” will feature additional food, family-friendly resting areas, and children's activities. Located just outside the entrance to Natural Resources Park, it will highlight the core Fair foundations of agriculture and natural resources, within a modern, fun, and intentional setting that will be one of the "go-to" destinations of the Fair moving forward complete with ample shade and seating.
Completion: 2026
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Multi-Purpose Agricultural Education Facility

This innovative building features built-in kitchens, dining space, meeting rooms, and more than 100,000 square feet of multi-use convention space. During the Ohio State Fair, this building will combine functions of the Taste of Ohio Café and the Agriculture & Horticulture Building in partnership with the Ohio Farm Bureau Federation and Ohio’s agricultural commodity groups. With expansive temperature-controlled space, this building creates new space for year-round event rentals, including:
  • Community Outreach Events
  • Livestock and Equine Events
  • High School and Education Events
  • Robotics Competitions
  • STEM Competitions
  • Science Fairs
  • Youth Programming and Events
  • Graduations
  • Sports
    • Basketball (5-8 courts)
    • Gymnastics (2 competition layouts)
    • Volleyball (14 courts)
    • Indoor soccer (3 pitches)
    • Cheerleading (22 mats)
    • Fencing (17 pistes)
    • Boxing (10 fields of play)
    • Taekwondo (7 fields of play)
    • Pickleball (24 courts)
    • Table tennis (30 fields of play)
    • Weightlifting (12 fields of play)
    • Wrestling (12 fields of play)
Completion: 2026
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Ohio Showcase

The Ohio Showcase building will anchor the center of the grounds near the new open “Town Square” gathering space and will feature additional comfort seating and shade for fairgoers and guests. The exterior focal point of the building will be a glass “jewel box” featuring large historic artifacts, with the potential for objects as large as a small airplane. This dual-purpose building will features two primary purposes:

  • Ohio's Story - an exhibit telling the story of our great state in conjunction with the Ohio History Connection
  • Dining and Event Space - A food hall with multi-purpose dining and event space and incubator kitchens on the first floor, and additional dining and event space on the second story. Both levels include outdoor dining on a patio or balcony.
Completion: 2026

Entry Gate (north)

A new, iconic state-of-the-art entry gate will replace the aging lackluster gate between the main parking lots near Historic Crew Stadium and the giant red cardinal on the north side of the grounds. Traditionally, this gate is where approximately 80% of fairgoers enter the Fair. This upgrade will make a lasting first impression and serve functional purposes with a canopy, rather than tents, to cover pre-fair security screenings, as well as permanent ticket booths. The gate spelling out OHIO along 11th Avenue will continue to serve as an historic icon, with no construction or changes to that gate.
Completion: 2025

Underground Infrastructure, Landscaping, and Navigational Path

Navigational Path Rendering
The Ohio Expo Center has been home to the Ohio State Fair since 1886, and has expanded from its beginnings at just over 100 acres to a broadened neighborhood campus including 360 acres. With an historic campus that has grown and expanded since the 19th century, there is a need for vital underground infrastructure work to improve utilities and create more flexible outdoor opportunities. In addition, the work will be topped with beautiful landscaping and a defined navigational pathway through the grounds, featuring different materials that will help with overall flow through the facility. The underground utility work will enhance internet connectivity throughout the fairgrounds, separate storm and sewer systems, and ensure electrical access and flexibility for food vendors and events throughout the year.
Completion: 2026
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