The 80-acre site in the center of Topeka now known as the Kansas Expocentre has a long history of use for activities related to agriculture, farming, exhibitions, education and entertainment.
The earliest recorded event on this site dates back to 1871. A small, local fair quickly grew to be the largest in the state. Just nine years after its inception it became known as the Kansas State Fair, featuring a wide variety of exhibitions. Fairgoers saw the newest farm equipment and the best agricultural exhibits in the state, as well as the finest livestock. The fair included a variety of entertainment, ranging from horse races and saloons to opera houses and fine arts displays. In 1879, some of the fair buildings were used to house hundreds of ex-slaves during the "Exoduster" movement westward through Topeka.
During the last decades of the 19th century the original grandstand was erected. However, it was not until 1909 that funds were appropriated for the building of permanent structures.
A five acre site had been reserved on the Expo grounds for the location of a privately built hotel, and in 1998 the Capitol Plaza Hotel opened for business. A John Q. Hammons property, the hotel has 224 rooms, restaurant, lounge, pool, fitness center, ballroom, and a climate-controlled walkway connecting to the Expocentre. Maner Conference Center is now operated by the hotel.
Well over a century has passed since the first exposition was held at this location, yet the old fairgrounds continue to attract hundreds of thousands of people each year. The Kansas Expocenter is home to the Topeka RoadRunners of the North American Hockey League, the Kansas Koyotes of the American Professional Football League, the Kansas State High School Rodeo Finals, and - appropriatly - it's home to the Shawnee County Fair. Our visitors enjoy concerts, family shows, trade shows, consumer shows, horse shows, dog shows and all kinds of exhibitions. The community utilizes the smaller halls for wedding receptions, parties, galas and dances.
Gone are the days when the fairgrounds sat idle for most of the year. It's not unusual for six events to be hosted simultaneously in our facilities, and we typically book over 600 event days annually. The staff of the Kansas Expocentre is proud to carry on the tradition of bringing people together at this location for entertainment, education and celebration.