SIOUX CITY -- The Sioux City Council awarded a $14.94 million contract to L&L Builders Monday for the Siouxland Expo Center project, which came in $2.24 million above the engineer's estimate of $12.7 million.
The multi-purpose venue will be built on a parcel of land bounded by Interstate 29 and the Floyd River channel and boast 80,000 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. Once completed, the building will be owned by the nonprofit Siouxland Expo Center and managed by the city.
Before the council approved the contract, as part of its consent agenda, Councilman Pete Groetken asked Dale McKinney, an architect at Stone Group, to offer his opinion as to why the bids came in higher than expected. McKinney said "some things" were missed when the building's overall square footage was reduced from 200,000 to 104,000 square feet.
"We tried to just kind of dial it back without going back to them and asking them to recalculate that," said McKinney, who also noted that the sub-site soil is the worst he has ever worked on.
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. The building will be big enough to install a full-size artificial-turf field for football and 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.
Expo Center Board President Dirk Lohry said he isn't surprised that the low bid came in more than $2 million higher than expected considering a two-year-old estimate was revised.
"I still think that's within the range of accuracy of any type of construction estimate for a project of this size," he said. "We have to realize we're in a growing robust economy. Contractors are busy. Wages are going up. Materials are more expensive."
Under the contract with L&L Builders, McKinney said an entrance canopy will be removed from Expo Center plans and Pre-Engineered Metal Building liner panel at full height will be added on the interior walls. The liner panel adds more money to the project, but also makes the building more durable, according to McKinney.
"When you have soccer balls and baseballs hit the wall, it doesn't hurt the insulation," Lohry explained.
The facility 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 and $1.5 million from Woodbury County.
Given the increase in construction costs, Lohry said organizers will have to "work very hard" when it comes to fundraising. A naming rights buyer is still needed for the Expo Center.
"Now that it's a reality and it's going forward, I think it'll make the fundraising a lot easier, because now people can visualize what this Expo Center is going to be and how it can be such a great addition to the quality of life issues in Sioux City," Lohry said.
The Expo Center is expected to host its first events in the summer of 2020.