- Associated Press - Tuesday, July 28, 2015

July 28—Corn Palace construction crews on Monday crossed one of the last major items off their to-do list. The domes for the World’s Only Corn Palace are up.

“I’m happy,” said Mitchell Mayor Jerry Toomey. “I think it’s a great day for Mitchell.”

What started out as a gloomy Monday morning took a turn for the better when the Corn Palace’s signature feature rose to the roof of Mitchell’s major tourist attraction. As the first of three domes left the ground, the sun peeked through, and smiles appeared on the faces of at least 100 spectators.

Two weeks after the two decorative turrets were placed atop the building, representatives from Minnesota-based MG McGrath came to Mitchell to finish the long-delayed project.

Beginning bright and early, the Corn Palace renovation crew took about five hours to install the three domes.

The domes were installed four months after the Corn Palace renovations’ expected completion date. The delay stems from an April City Council meeting in which some city officials noticed the domes shaking in the harsh South Dakota wind. The city and Corn Palace renovation project manager Dave Epp decided to wait until the domes were reinforced before allowing them to be installed.

After dozens of additional rings and bolts were added to address safety concerns from the City Council, the domes finally reached their new, permanent home.

Corn Palace Director Dan Sabers was happy to have the domes installed before the Corn Palace Festival starting Aug. 26.

“To get the project completed will be a big relief so we can get the festival going and we can get work done,” Sabers said.

‘That’s the way it is’

The Corn Palace has remained open during the renovation process, which began in June 2014. During Monday’s renovation, which blocked the front entrance from use, visitors were forced to walk through an ongoing Planning Commission meeting to enter the tourist attraction.

Dorothy Thaler, a Mitchell resident visiting Main Street to watch a crane raise the domes, was aware of the long delay in installation, and questioned why dome fabricator MG McGrath didn’t ensure the safety and structural integrity of the domes would hold up to South Dakota weather.

“You know how glitches are, but I thought the manufacturer, being in South Dakota, would have a better idea of how strong it should have been,” said Thaler. “But that’s the way it is.”

The installation of the domes and turrets were part of a remodel of the building featured a new sign, walkout balcony, a new entryway and redesigned box office.

Sabers said seeing the domes go up provided extra excitement to tourists in attendance.

“The nice part is that the tourists go to see the construction,” Sabers said. “The tourists were amazed at what they got to see.”

Toomey said spectators he interacted with were very enthused about the installation.

“It’s another big phase of the program that’s done and probably the primary thing that the people of Mitchell have been waiting for, so that’s a good feeling knowing that’s behind us now,” Toomey said.

Like Toomey, Sabers was happy with the day’s work.

“I thought it went perfect,” said Sabers. “You couldn’t get any better cooperation and the wind’s been down. They went up smooth and I couldn’t believe how easy those big things handled.”

Spectators take in the view

Although the installation of the two smaller turrets garnered some attention from tourists and residents alike, there were times Monday afternoon when approximately 100 spectators lined Main Street to watch the domes rise. After the largest of the three domes, most of the spectators dispersed.

One of those spectators was Gordon Visscher, of Mitchell. Visscher said the Corn Palace domes looked fine, but was concerned with the price tag. The cost of domes alone were about $650,000, while the entire first phase of renovation was $4.7 million.

“I think it’s a little steep,” Visscher said. “I don’t think that the money that they’re putting in is worth the investment and I think they could have done a little less.”

With the approximately four month delay, Visscher was concerned that the construction, which he called “a mess all summer,” could leave a bad taste in tourists’ mouths.

“To me, they were a little bit slow,” Visscher said. “I don’t know the whole details of what was causing them to delay the project, but it was way too long in my book.”

Visscher said the large amount of tourists who already came through Mitchell to visit the Corn Palace left confused as to why the project was unfinished. He hoped it would not impact a visitor’s decision to recommend the Corn Palace to friends and family.

Duane Nygaard and Thaler, of Mitchell, were impressed by the new-look Corn Palace.

“Oh, I love it,” said Thaler. “I’m always ready for changes and I’m excited for it to be lit up.”

Nygaard said he was fine with the amount of money the city spent on the project and was also happy with the similarities between the initial design and the finished product.

“It looks a lot nicer and the inside is pretty decent now, so it should help the city get some people here,” Nygaard said.

PHOTOS of the Corn Palace domes being placed

VIDEO of dome installation

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(c)2015 The Daily Republic (Mitchell, S.D.)

Visit The Daily Republic (Mitchell, S.D.) at www.mitchellrepublic.com

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