Youth Inn Renovations Make it a Cool Place to Check Out During Fair

DES MOINES, Iowa –The Iowa State Fair is just one day away, and 4-H students are already on the grounds showing their livestock.

Opening ceremonies kick off the fair Thursday at 9 a.m. The festivities will be held in the Oman Family Youth Inn this year, and fair organizers are excited to show off the renovations.

Renee Kerr, a Wilton Community School Junior, is excited for the fair. She said, "It's really fun and energetic, and you get to meet new people."

And since she and her friend Katelyn Boeding are showing animals like sheep, goats, and rabbits, it just makes sense to stay at the Youth Inn. Boeding said, "It's on grounds, and it's easy to just go down to the barns in the morning and not have to wait through traffic."

The more than 70-year-old building hasn't always been so nice. Iowa State Fair CEO and Manager Gary Slater said, "This building hadn't had much TLC in the past. As you can tell, it's a concrete building, and it has weathered very, very well, but it was never air conditioned, nor heated."

Crews started the $8 million renovations three years ago.  The upper level, which is home to the male and female dormitories for 4-H youth and their families, got air conditioning and heat, new mattresses, and updated bathrooms a couple years ago. It has room for 400 people.

"It is full, and if you look 10 years ago, it was never full. Something about air conditioning and nice shower facilities have made it full in the last couple of years," said Slater.

The first floor was renovated this year. It is home to a theater, which features a new stage and big screen. People will be able to watch the Olympics there during the fair. It is air conditioned.

The theater seats about one thousand people. It also includes balconies with tables and an upgraded kitchen facility, where crews serve three meals a day during the fair.

"One other element to the building is now we can use it in the off season, and I think the theater and area will be good for businesses to hold meetings, maybe wedding receptions, family reunions."

And, Kerr said it's a much cooler place to check out during the fair. She said, "We heard they weren't good, like there wasn't air conditioning. The improvements they put in are really worth it."

It costs $10 a night for the youth to stay at the inn. Private donations, the Blue Ribbon Foundation, and money from the state paid for the renovations.