After 8 years of planning, $48 million Expocentre project to begin May 1

After eight years of planning and discussion, work is set to begin May 1 on a major $48 million project designed to transform the 32-year-old Kansas Expocentre into a sparkling state-of-the-art facility.

Topeka, Kansas expocentre

As seen in the Topeka Capital-Journal, by Phil Anderson (April 15th, 2019).

After eight years of planning and discussion, work is set to begin May 1 on a major $48 million project designed to transform the 32-year-old Kansas Expocentre into a sparkling state-of-the-art facility.

At their Monday morning meeting, Shawnee County commissioners Bob Archer, Kevin Cook and Bill Riphahn heard a detailed report on the final plans for the Expocentre before work begins in earnest in about two weeks.

The project is expected to be completed May 4, 2021. The two-year time frame is a year less than the original three-year projection.

The improvements will result in a new appearance both inside and outside the Expocentre, including Landon Arena, Exhibition Hall and Domer Livestock Arena. Those working on the project said renovation and construction at the Expocentre will help the facility bring major events to the capital city.

Working on the project, which was first discussed in 2011, are HTK Architects, McCownGordon Construction and Spectra venue management, along with Shawnee County officials.

“This has been a long process,” Shawnee County counselor Jim Crowl told commissioners at the outset of Monday morning’s Expocentre presentation. “A long road.”

The guaranteed maximum price for construction services was set at $33,941,408. The remainder of the $48 million price tag was for other related expenses, including design, engineering and financing.

“This is really a big day for the county and really for the Topeka community,” said project manager Zach Snethen, of HTK Architects. “The facility we’ve known for 30 years is really going to get a facelift.”

Work will include upgrades of both the appearance and infrastructure of the facility, Snethen said. Work already has been done on the facility’s boiler and its heating, ventilation and air-conditioning system.

When the work is finished, Snethen said, area residents will have “a new and refreshed facility to look forward to.”

Among the most obvious changes to the Expocentre, which opened in 1987, will be to its exterior, which will take on a more streamlined appearance.

Snethen said “the entire facility will be re-skinned,” which he said will improve the “street appearance and also address some leaks and building envelope issues we’ve seen.”

The Exhibition Hall will be expanded and the massive concrete steps on the northeast corner of Landon Arena will be torn down. In their place will be new stairs and an escalator that will both be enclosed, making it possible for patrons to go to updated ticket booths and then to the arena without having to leave the building.

Major improvements to Landon Arena that were discussed at Monday’s meeting include new seating; new lighting; a new sound system; expanded concession stands; a bar area with loge seating in the south end zone; renovation of existing locker rooms; a video ribbon-board that will wrap the inside of the facility; and a center-hung video board inside the arena, which seats about 10,000 people.

Improvements to Domer Livestock Arena will include an enclosed warm-up area; improved lighting; and the installation of bleachers.

Jesse Dull, senior estimator for McCownGordon, said more than 700 man hours were spent in the bidding process in the past few months, with 328 companies contacted. About 50 percent of the bids were awarded to contractors based in Shawnee County.

Scott Kimzey, pre-construction manager for McCownGordon, said the parking lot “will be completely redone,” though it will remain in the present configuration.

Among items cited by Kimzey that “just didn’t make the cut” were wireless access points, video surveillance and new restroom lighting and ceilings.

Work on the Expocentre, located near S.W. 19th and Topeka Boulevard, will take place around events, with temporary walls placed near construction areas to ensure the safety of visitors, said Todd Ramsey, senior project manager for McCownGordon.

The finished project will help the facility reach its goal of “enhancing the patron experience,” said Expocentre general manager Kellen Seitz.

Of the project’s total $48 million cost, $45 million is to be generated by a half-cent countywide sales tax that voters approved in 2014. The other $3 million is to come from available excess reserve funds from the county.

During a public comment session, two people expressed their disappointment that Domer Livestock Arena wasn’t expanded or enhanced as they had hoped. Both of the speakers had served on the Expocentre’s advisory board and said renovations to the Domer Livestock Arena weren’t what they had envisioned.

Near the end of the Expocentre presentation, Archer said he was glad to see the renovation was about to begin and thanked those who have worked on the project.

“I think the big day is finally here,” he said, “and I’m pleased.”