Construction is underway at the Husker Harvest Days show site, where crews are wasting no time laying the groundwork for the $7 million renovation project.
HHD show staff met with the general contractor and subcontractors for an initial meeting Nov. 15, after Grand Island City Council the day before voted unanimously to invest $2 million in the show site over the next 10 years — or $200,000 per year.
Meanwhile, Informa, the parent company of Farm Progress and Husker Harvest Days, has committed to host the show in Grand Island for at least 20 more years. Show manager Matt Jungmann notes the show brings an average of $7.6 million to the community every September.
"From the City of Grand Island's standpoint, a $7 million annual return for a $200,000 commitment is a pretty wise investment," says Jungmann. "It shows a lot of commitment on the part of the community that they've stepped up, and a lot of commitment from Informa that they're making the investment and keeping our deep roots in Hall County growing."
When completed, these upgrades will include about 6 miles of pavement on the HHD streets, perimeter fencing to lock down the site during the off-season and to protect infrastructure, about 10,000 feet of storm sewer and drainage system lines, new water lines for plumbing, and an underground electrical distribution system. The upgrades are set to be finished by Aug. 15.
"We're going to try to get everyone out so we have a month to go from a construction site to a show site," says Jungmann.
However, Dave Neill, assistant manager at Paulsen Inc., the general contractor on the project, notes if all goes according to plan, most of the main upgrades should be wrapped up by July.
"It kind of depends on how much we can get installed this winter. But if we have a mild winter and spring, with not a lot of rain, we should be done by late June," Neill says. "I'd like to be done by July, so we're just fine-tuning things at that point."
This month crews began surveying the show site and will soon begin digging to install the new water main and storm sewer system.
Much of the electrical work will take place in conjunction with the construction of the storm sewer, and will be partially completed by April.
The storm sewer is set to be completed by March 1, and Neill notes the major pavement should be finished by early to mid-June.
"When paving the streets, we're doing 1,000-foot runs [roughly the distance from South Street to Main Street at the HHD site], and we're going to try to start out by doing one run a day. Hopefully, when it gets warmer, we'll get to two runs a day," says Neill. "It's actually pretty simple if everything goes right. We'll have a Redi-Mix plant on-site to mix concrete, which will make things much easier."
Most who have attended HHD know the roads were built with a crown at the center and ditches on the side — designed to drain stormwater. However, show-goers also know that the show site is fairly level, with less than a foot of fall from the west side of the show site to the east. When it storms during HHD, water tends to pond.
So, Neill notes roads will be paved with an inverted crown to drain toward the center, where drainage basins will be installed to connect to the storm sewer system. This way, water drains toward the center of the road, and the storm sewer carries the water to a retaining pond. This retaining pond, which will be located to the northeast of the show site, will be designed to handle a 3-inch rain.
While upgrades are underway, Jungmann notes the project is ahead of schedule, and when completed, the show site will once again be the premier show site it was in the 1970s and 1980s.
"We announced the renovations to the Farm Progress Show site in Decatur in the fall of 2004, didn't start moving dirt until March of 2005, and we were ready to go for the show in 2005. Based on the way things are going, we're way ahead of where we've been in the past," he says. "The cool thing is we've upgraded the Decatur site and we've upgraded the Boone site. We've done this a few times. This is going to be a first-rate, world-class facility by the time this is done."