Minnesota State Fair prices go up by $1

State Fair crowds
Thousands packed the Minnesota State Fair Aug. 26, 2016, in Falcon Heights.
Jim Mone | AP

The Minnesota State Fair will be a little more expensive when the gates open this August.

The State Fair board voted to raise prices by $1 at its annual meeting in Bloomington Sunday — after briefly debating a higher increase.

The change means regular admission will rise to $14. Seniors and kids from 5 to 12 will pay $12. Pre-fair discount admission tickets will rise to $11 and parking will now be $14 per vehicle.

Fair general manager Jerry Hammer said he thinks fairgoers will still find the Great Minnesota Get Together a good value.

Grow the Future of Public Media

MPR News is Member supported public media. Show your support today, donate, and ensure access to local news and in-depth conversations for everyone.

"The value really is extraordinary," Hammer said. "And when you look at our operating expenses, the fair will spend — last fair we spent almost $18 for everybody that went to the fair. That's what it cost for us to host them. So the price of your admission is actually quite a bit less than we're spending on you. So you're getting a good deal that way for sure."

Hammer also noted that, with discounts, most fairgoers will pay an average price of about $11.50 to get in. Less than a third of all tickets to the fair are purchased for full price and nearly half of all tickets last year were sold before the fair opened for $10.

Several board members broached the idea of raising the price $2 across the board, citing a possible drop in attendance for 2017. Fair officials believe that drop could be 100,000 attendees or more.

The fair set an all-time record in 2016 of more than 1.9 million attendees. The fair also has another major upgrade on the drawing board, a multimillion dollar remake of the north end of the fairgrounds, something similar to the West End improvements from 2014, but on a smaller scale.

Hammer told the board he still thinks the State Fair will make money and projected the fair will will have nearly $11 million in the bank by this time in 2018. "From a marketing perspective, $2 could be a challenge," Hammer told the board.

State Fair Board Member D.J. Leary, urged the board to keep the increase to $1, particularly after the record year last year. "To do this to the public, just whack, is going to jeopardize our biggest asset in the bank, which is the public trust that we're going to treat them fairly."

The board agreed and approved the $1 recommended by the fair's finance staff. The board last raised admission ticket prices by $1 in 2014. This year's fair opens Aug. 24th.

Here are the gate fees for 2017:

• Adults (13-64): $14

• Seniors, children 5-12, Thrifty Thursday adults and seniors, Read and Ride Day adults: $12

• All ages pre-fair discount tickets: $11

• Senior and kid day promotions, Thrifty Thursday children, Military Appreciation Day, Read and Ride Day kids: $9

• Parking will increase to $14 for regular vehicles and $7 for motorcycles