SIOUX CITY | On a dreary Thursday afternoon, the drone of a floor-polishing machine drowned out the patter of raindrops inside the new day lodge at the future Cone Park.
A worker with H&R Construction navigated the bulky contraption across the wide-open room that, within the next three months, could be buzzing with mitten-handed, cocoa-drinking sledders.
"We're very happy with the lodge," City Parks and Recreation Director Matt Salvatore said, standing underneath the overhang of the roof to keep dry. "Lots of glass, the furnishings are turning out great -- we couldn't be more happy."
Construction on the slant-roofed lodge, the centerpiece of the new park slated to open this winter, is quickly drawing to a close -- months ahead of schedule. Salvatore said crews had planned to finish by mid-December but are now on pace to finish by the end of the month.
Cone Park -- named for philanthropist Ruth Cone, whose family in 1981 established a trust to build a new park that has now grown to $2.9 million -- will open, weather permitting, in mid-December. Located on a spacious field east of the IBP Ice Center parking lot, the all-seasons park will feature a tubing hill, refrigerated ice skating, 1.5-mile trail, fire pit and the day lodge. In the summer, the skating rink will double as a splash pad.
Most features of the park are now taking shape. Water "guns" are set up near the grassy tubing hill, and progress continues at the site of the rink, which Salvatore said should be complete by Dec. 31.
Salvatore said the park's opening date will depend upon the weather. The snow-making machines need temperatures to dip to 26 degrees or below.
"We have a snow-making contractor that's coming Dec. 1," he said. "So, if the weather conditions are correct and we have cool enough temperatures, they'll start making snow anytime after that.
"Ideally, we'd like to be open by Christmas break."
Salvatore and other parks staff on Thursday gave a short tour of the lodge and the park to members of the city's Cone Park Advisory Committee, which has planned and steered the project for the past decade.
Committee member Fran Palmersheim, who also serves as president of the city's Parks and Recreation Advisory Board, said after 10 years of planning, seeing the park take a physical form has been encouraging.
"We started on this thing around 2007, and it's great to see it materialize," Palmersheim said. "We have high hopes for it. We think it's going to bring people to town."
Entry fees for the park, passed by the City Council in June, will range from $7 to $10 per four-hour session. Salvatore said an additional feature of the park in the works will be laser-light tubing, planned for Fridays and Saturdays between 9 and 11 p.m.
"It's kind of a new trend within the tubing industry," he said. "We'll have an LED light-show with multi-colored lights flashing on the hill set to music, and we'll have a really cool experience."
Palmersheim said the recent rains, like the one that rained on the Thursday tour, have done wonders for the new grass seeded at the park. With the new structure up and on its way to completion, he said, the park is now taking shape.
"It's a beautiful sight," he said.