Buildings near completion at county fairgrounds

Published 12:00 am Monday, June 23, 2003

The first thing visitors will notice is the size of the new Mower County Fairgrounds buildings.

They're big. Really big.

Wagner Construction Company of Austin has its hands full this summer. The general contractor for the fairgrounds buildings project is being paid $1.7 million to construct the four new buildings before the start of the 2003 Mower County Fair on Aug. 5.

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With six weeks to go until that deadline, here is the status report, according to Brendhan Wagner, project manager for the general contractor.

n The new agricultural display building behind the Mower County Historical Center in the southeast corner of the fairgrounds is, for all practical purposes, finished.

n Crane Pavilion's renovation is complete. New shower facilities and storage areas are in place. The building is presently being used as a safe-storage facility for the contractors and has a few recreational vehicles inside left over from winter storage, but essentially the improvements have been made. Ron Osmon, buildings and grounds superintendent, has moved his headquarters across the street to the former American Red Cross emergency services building next to the old fair board administration office building.

n Building No. 3 -- south of Crane Pavilion -- is also done. This is where the fair board will move its offices, conference room, kitchen and other administrative headquarters.

Wagner said the completion turnover date is Friday. This means the construction crew will focus its attention on the final two buildings around Crane Pavilion.

"There have been no snags or surprises," Wagner said. "Every contractor would like perfect weather and no rain to get through a project from start to finish and we've had to deal with that, but, really, the work has gone well."

Building No. 3 is a giant 200-foot long by 80-foot wide structure. A 30-by-80-foot section is set aside for fair board administration purposes. The same overall size as Buildings No. 1 and 2 on the west and north side of Crane Pavilion.

The larger two of the three new buildings measure 200 feet long by 80 feet wide.

The three buildings total over 45,000 square feet of multi-purpose livestock building space.

When the 120-foot by 60-foot agricultural display building is added into the mix, that's more than 55,000 square feet of new building space being constructed.

The Mower County Board of Commissioners took bids on the project Nov. 7. On Nov. 12, the commissioners approved the low bid and awarded a contract.

Wagner Construction bid $1,704,352 to erect three 80-by-200-foot buildings and one 120-by-60-foot building.

Five bids were received. The next lowest to the Wagner bid was Met-Con's $1,710,430 bid; only $6,000 more than the lowest bid.

The highest bid was a $1,832,000 quote to erect the four buildings.

The county board's building committee acted quickly. Richard P. Cummings, 1st District, made the motion, and Garry Ellingson, 5th District, seconded it. All five commissioners voted "Aye."

Wagner Construction workers started on the project last winter. At the peak, there were 35 workers attacking the four buildings, including sub-contractors.

Wagner Construction Company crews are also working on a new medical center at Fairmont and a new HyVee Food Store at Charles City, Iowa, among other projects this summer.

But the Mower County Fairgrounds projects is special.

"Very much so," said Brendahn Wagner. "This is my hometown. This is where I grew up. This will become part of Austin's history. The fairgrounds is a place where everybody goes. It means a lot personally to me."

Also excited is Shirley DeYoung, the administrator at the Mower County Historical Center.

The new agricultural display building fills a long void in the Mower County Historical Society's efforts to preserve history, according to DeYoung.

"We've had to turn away offers of historical items, because we never had any room to store them or display them to the public," she said. "Now, we do. People will see a lot more of the agricultural history of Mower County on display."

While curiosity continues to grow about the fairgrounds building project, Wagner reminds all that the buildings are considered a construction site and off-limits for all citizens. Plans call for a formal dedication ceremony and public tour opportunities sometime later this summer before the start of the fair.

Lee Bonorden can be contacted at 434-2232 or by e-mail at