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Renovation moves ahead at Corn Palace

Eric Amel, of Meyer, Scherer and Rockcastle, a Minneapolis-based firm designing the Corn Palace renovation, talks to Mitchell City Council members Monday evening on the roof of the Corn Palace, during a tour of the construction, before the start of the City Council meeting. (Sean Ryan/Republic) 1 / 3
During a construction tour Monday night, Mitchell City Council members stand in the entry of the Corn Palace where the box office once stood. (Sean Ryan/Republic)2 / 3
On Monday night during a construction tour, Mitchell City Council members are shown the Corn Palace basement where the elevator shaft will be. (Sean Ryan/Republic)3 / 3

Members of the Mitchell City Council stood inside the lobby of the Corn Palace on Monday night and saw the extent of the demolition inside the the city-owned arena and tourist attraction.

Construction began in early June on a two-phase, nearly $7.2 million renovation of the Corn Palace. About a month later, much of the lobby has been stripped to a bare skeleton of a structure.

Demolition throughout the Corn Palace will likely continue until late August, according to Eric Amel, an architect with the Minneapolis-based firm designing the renovation for the city.

“We’re opening new holes and demolishing concrete at this point,” Amel said in an interview Monday with The Daily Republic. “We’re not going back.”

Council members toured the Corn Palace during a 6:15 p.m. Public Properties Committee meeting prior to Monday night’s regular council meeting.

In the first phase of the renovation, changes planned for the Corn Palace include new light-up domes, larger murals with improved lighting and large windows that open to a walk-out balcony above the marquee.

The cost of construction for the fi rst phase is expected to be about $3.64 million, with a 10 percent contingency taking up the rest of the $4.2 million budget for the first phase. A local company, Mueller Lumber, was awarded the bid for the construction by the council in May.

Work on the renovation is on schedule, Amel said.

In the lobby’s entryway, the area that was once occupied by the box office has been completely cleared, as has the area where a new box office will be built.

The new box office will be located on the south side of the entryway, and will have three ticket windows and room inside for three staff members. It’s expected to cost about $50,000, excluding the cost of demolishing the old box office.

The Corn Palace’s main entrance, which faces Main Street, has been closed to the public. Visitors will enter through a temporary entrance on the south side of the building. Visitors now enter through a temporary entrance on the south side of the building, and still have access to the gift shop on the arena floor.

Work on the temperature control system, both heating and cooling, will begin in the near future because demolition to allow that work is done, said Dave Epp, of Mueller Lumber.

In the basement of the Corn Palace, workers found additional concrete that will need to be removed to make way for an elevator shaft, Epp said.

“Until we came in here and started destroying stuff, we weren’t even aware of it,” Epp said.

Exactly how much it will cost to remove the additional concrete isn’t known at this point, but the process will take most of July to complete, Epp said.

Deputy Public Works Director Terry Johnson told the council a fi re sprinkler line was hit during demolition and revealed many of the lines were filled with sludge because they had never been cleaned out.

“Chances are, if we ever did have a fire, some of those sprinklers heads may not have released water,” Johnson said.

The fire safety of the Corn Palace will be improved in the renovation, Amel said.

“It’s important to say this will be a much safer building,” he said.

In the second phase, the existing City Hall building — which adjoins the Corn Palace’s north side — will be transformed into a large, open space for agriculture-themed exhibits, complete with a small theater large enough to accommodate a busload of tourists. A new city hall will be built in southern downtown Mitchell.