Within hours of AWAYSIS groundbreaking, machines are rolling on the lakefront
The winds of change were quite literally blowing.
Mayor Jon Kruse took a sweeping look along a lakefront that is about to become dramatically different.
"Today is a day to forever change Storm Lake," the mayor told a crowd of about 100 gathered on a blustery Monday morning to watch the groundbreaking for Project AWAYSIS site work.
The mayor, city council members and acting city administrator manned golden shovels to throw a ceremonial bit of dirt into the strong breeze.
By early afternoon, motor graders were moving in, trees were being prepared for removal, and workers were breaking up the Kolb Memorial Fountain for removal.
"This is possibly the biggest economic development - no, it is the biggest economic development we have ever seen in this community," Kruse said at the ceremony, adding that the AWAYSIS destination park project will translate into new business and business expansion, as well as new jobs and increased tourism.
"There will be plenty of opportunity for visitors to come and enjoy our waterpark, the lake and other attractions to have a good time and relax," he said. "It is also about quality of life for the citizens of our great community. Everyone will benefit in some way."
Site work will begin immediately on the $30 million project, to include a sprawling city-owned lodge-hotel, a cutting-edge indoor-outdoor water park, a new beach featuring a lighthouse with observation deck, a large playground, heavily renovated golf course with condos, an expanded campground with guest cabins, a Great Lawn gathering place and more.
"We will begin removing the road and some gravel parking areas in the next couple of days," said Mike Wilson, City Project Manager for AWAYSIS.
Tree removal will begin later this week or early next week.
Plans are being made to move the massive landmark "Pioneer Rock" next week. A large crane will transport the rock to a location west of the existing pool, where architects are projecting the north entrance to the playground to be developed later.
Once the road, trees and the landmark rock are dealt with, earth work can begin in earnest around midmonth for the area that will become the new lodge hotel and water park sites. Construction on those attractions should start in 2006 and finish in 2007.
As the ceremonial spades were turned Monday, a towering tree nearby was marked with a red ribbon. The spot of that tree will be the north entrance of the lobby of the lodge. "Imagine 11 feet up on that tree - that will be the level of the lobby of the new lodge - and you will get some idea of the terrific view of the lake that will be seen," Wilson said.
The final design for the lodge has not yet been selected. A western arts-and-crafts plan with cobblestone and heavy timber was the original plan, and the consulting architect later suggested a classical prairie school alternative. City officials are scheduled to visit the architects in Omaha in the coming days to view some additional ideas. A decision is expected by the end of November.
The fundraising campaigns are on pace to meet all goals, Wilson said. "We are going to hit those numbers. With some costs increasing, of course, anything over the $2 million would be a real boost, but I don't think we are going to formally change the amount of our goal. We will be happy to keep going as long as people wish to donate."
As work begins on the lakefront, it is a gratifying experience for those who have been involved in the project for so long.
"It is fun to get it off paper and onto the ground," Wilson said. "There is still a great deal of planning to do, but over the next two months, people will see a lot of change in this area of the community."
With only a couple of days of notice of the groundbreaking, city officials were pleased with the turnout on a windy, early Monday morning.
"This is indicative of the support that has been received from day one," Wilson said.
Kruse noted that it would have been impossible to reach such a moment without the help of many.
He thanked the Department of Economic Development for initial support for a study of a community development, the Department of Natural Resources for its heavy involvement, and the Vision Iowa Board for approving $8 million for the project.
Congressmen King and Harkin, the Buena Vista County Board of Supervisors and the City of Lakeside were praised for partnering with the effort.
"All of these people believed this would be realized. And then there were the countless volunteers who rose to the occasion when we told them we needed their help," Kruse said. "So many businesses, organizations and individuals helped to make this possible."
Kruse also thanked the public, noting that the project would not have progressed as it did without a successful bond issue vote.
"Every citizen of Storm Lake is a partner in this project," he told the crowd.
The wind swept through, playfully rippling the AWAYSIS banner, as if just as eager to get started as the crowd.
The mayor declared, "This is a great day. Let the work begin!"