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SIOUX CITY -- With some of its final funding pieces now secured, local leaders hope to break ground on the $12.7 million Siouxland Expo Center next summer in Sioux City's former stockyards.

The venue, which will be built on a parcel of land bounded by Interstate 29 and the Floyd River channel, celebrates the heritage of the city's former stockyards and the continuing success of its ag-based economy. Among events being talked about include rodeos, food produce shows, 4-H classes and a farmer appreciation day.

The 104,000-square-foot venue will boast 80,000 feet of exposition space, four times more than in the Sioux City Convention Center, and be big enough to install a full-size artificial-turf field for football or soccer games. Organizers envision attracting a wide range of activities, from large trade shows to youth sports tournaments.

"We need that type of facility in our community ... It will be a great project,” Mayor Bob Scott said of the Expo Center at a March City Council meeting.

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.

While the main arena will be much larger than the original design, the venue no longer includes equestrian-specific features like horse stalls and a warm-up arena.

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.

"We hope to get a farm equipment show in. We expect to get a large boat and camping show," said Expo Board President Dirk Lohry. "We expect to have 12 major shows per year. The rest of the time it's going to be smaller events, including recreation."

Lohry said architectural highlights of the spacious building include a 40-foot-tall ceiling and a 20-foot-wide observation deck that can hold additional seating. He said the cement floor can be easily covered with turf for sports such as soccer, football and baseball.

"There's also a large glassed-in area for the climbing wall," Lohry said.

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

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.

Bids for the project will be taken through April 9. If all goes well, construction will start by July, and the Siouxland Expo Center will host its first events in the summer of 2020.

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