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Plans for $12.7M Siouxland Expo Center move forward as funding pieces fall in place
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Plans for $12.7M Siouxland Expo Center move forward as funding pieces fall in place

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Siouxland Expo Center rendering March 2019

A groundbreaking ceremony will be held Wednesday to kick off construction of the Siouxland Expo Center. The venue is expected to host its first events in the summer of 2020.

SIOUX CITY – The proposed Siouxland Expo Center headed toward the construction phase Monday as the $12.7 million venue secured some of the final funding pieces.

The multi-purpose venue, which will be built with a mix of public and private dollars, has picked up a $500,000 donation from MidAmerican Energy Inc. and a $400,000 contribution from the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Sioux City.

The gifts were announced as the City Council on Monday approved the final design and construction documents for the 104,000-square-foot building envisioned for a former stockyards site, on the city's front door just off Interstate 29. The council also set a required public hearing for March 25 and agreed to take bids for the project through April 9.

If all goes well, construction will start by July, and the Expo Center will host its first events in the summer of 2020.

Council members were happy to learn of the major donations, and watched as architect Dale McKinney and Expo Board President Dirk Lohry jointly held a large scale model of the center.

“We need that type of facility in our community ... It will be a great project,” Mayor Bob Scott said.

The pre-engineered metal building will boast 80,000 square feet of exposition space, four times more than in the Sioux City Convention Center. Organizers envision attracting a wide range of activities, from large trade shows to youth sports tournaments.

The arena, for instance, will be large enough to install a full-size artificial turf field for football or soccer games.

The city Parks and Recreation department, which currently is housed in the Long Lines Family Rec Center, also will move its offices and activities to the Expo Center, including its Climbing Wall. Other Expo Center features include two conference rooms, locker rooms and a concession/kitchen area.

Once completed, the building will be owned by the nonprofit Siouxland Expo Center and managed by the city.

Local leaders have been working for more than a decade to bring an ag-focused expo center to Woodbury County. But after costs rose to around $17 million -- $5 million above earlier estimates -- organizers were forced to downsize the project and change its emphasis.

The word "Ag" was dropped from the building name, reflecting not only the reduced emphasis on equestrian shows, but also the broader events envisioned for the center. A number of changes were made to reduce expenses, including cutting the overall square footage from its original 200,000 square feet. While the design no longer includes equestrian-specific features like horse stalls and a warm-up arena, the venue now has a much larger main arena.

The Expo Center lost $2.5 million of the $5.5 million raised in private sector contributions after organizers reduced the focus on equestrian and agriculture events. The losses included a $650,000 naming gift from the Bomgaars family, owners of the Sioux City-based chain of farm and ranch stores. 

Lohry said he is confident local officials will secure a new sponsor to name the center within the next few months.

Missouri River Historical Development, a nonprofit that holds the Hard Rock’s state gaming license, previously donated $1 million and will be the naming sponsor for the Expo Center’s atrium. With its $500,000 contribution, MidAmerican Energy will receive sponsor rights for the Expo Hall. And the Hard Rock will be the naming sponsor for the hall’s videoboard.

Overall, the project has received financial support from more than 30 businesses.

The Expo Center is part of Sioux City's Reinvestment District, a combination of four projects that will leverage a combined $13.5 million in future hotel and sales taxes generated in the downtown district. The expo center is expected to use $6.5 million of that amount, along with $2 million from the city of Sioux City and $1.5 million from Woodbury County.

The Journal’s Bret Hayworth contributed to this story.

Copyright 2019 The Sioux City Journal. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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