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SIOUX CITY | Sioux City residents will get to weigh in on the fate of the 32-year-old Gateway Arches in downtown Sioux City.

The three 36-ton concrete arches will have to be removed as part of the ongoing Interstate 29 widening project. Citizens can fill out a survey online by Thanksgiving indicating whether they'd like to see the arches moved, rebuilt or replaced by a new sculpture and if so, where.

The soaring 40-foot-high arcs, in a tiny park off the I-29 business exit to Gordon Drive, were installed in 1980 in a community effort to create a signature entry into downtown Sioux City.

Joanne Grueskin, then a member of the Junior League of Siouxland, spearheaded the effort in the late 1970s. The landmark, which represents Iowa, Nebraska and South Dakota, is now owned by business advocacy group Downtown Partners and maintained by the city.

When it became clear the arches were in the path of the highway project, the Junior League formed an ad-hoc committee with representatives of the  League, Downtown Partners, Siouxland Chamber of Commerce, the city and Siouxland Interstate Metropolitan Planning Council to recommend what to do with the sculpture.

Work on the downtown portion of the freeway is slated to begin in 2014. The committee has all next year to come up with a plan, said City Engineer Chris Payer.

Payer has done some preliminary structural examinations, concluding the arches probably could be moved but "at a significant cost." He estimated the cost to remove the footings and arches at $50,000 to $75,000, with another $120,000 to $150,000 or more to relocate them.

There's no guarantee the pieces will remain intact when they're taken down.

“They’re old and made out of concrete,” said Michelle Bostinelos, a member of the ad-hoc committee, which will make its recommendation to the League, Downtown Partners and the city.

When they were installed in 1980, the arches, with landscaping and fountains, cost $200,000. Private donations collected by the Gateway Coalition and the city paid the bill. Problems with the fountains eventually led the city to shut off the waterworks.

No decision has been reached on who would pay for the relocation.

Marge Delzell, of Sioux City, said she would not favor moving the sculpture unless private funds are used. Public money should go to efforts that directly benefit people, she said.

She also questioned the value of the Gateway Arches as public art. "I think a sculpture should say something. I don't look at them and think of the three states."

But Amanda Gibson, 31, of Sioux City said she would like to see the arches relocated because they symbolize part of the community's history.

"Every time something is removed, we lose a sense of who we are," she said.

If the survey indicates residents want the arches moved downtown, Bostinelos said finding a spot would be difficult until a location for a new land-based casino is settled. State gaming officials are accepting applications for an onshore replacement for the Argosy Sioux City, docked on the Missouri River, but a decision is months away. 

Other possible options for the arches include Riverside and the Missouri riverfront.

However, the arches committee could recommend not replacing the sculpture at all.

"Do we still need them and are they that significant anymore?" Bostinelos said.

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