The Sunday of the 2019 Platteville Dairy Days was cool and damp.
Platteville Common Council president Barb Daus nevertheless called it “truly a great day to celebrate.”
The celebration was the groundbreaking for the Legion Park Event Center, held in the beer tent next to Art Hall, whose demolition is scheduled for later this week.
Starting less than one year ago, the LPEC Committee has raised more than $750,000 for the project, enough for work to begin this week.
“That is amazing,” said Daus. “Every gift, no matter its size, has had an incredible impact on this event today.”
The City of Platteville put $50,000 in its budget for Art Hall repairs, and Inspiring Community gave a $100,000 grant. However, Daus said the $150,000 “didn’t meet the needs of Platteville for the next 50 years.”
What was originally planned as a $500,000 to $600,000 project to replace Art Hall has ballooned toward $1 million as donors requested various features, and backed up their requests with donations or pledges. The project is about $200,000 away from installing such features as room dividers, new tables and chairs, an epoxy floor and video equipment.
Outside in the rain, Delta 3 Engineering, the designer of the project, drew white lines on the ground to trace the footprint of the 5,760-square-foot building, more than twice the size of the current building.
The current building got use from approximately Memorial Day weekend past Dairy Days into September, and has been used about 75 percent of weekend days the past three years.
The building was used for the Hometown Festival’s Southwest Health Berry Fest, Dairy Days and other events, plus by service clubs, church groups, family reunions, graduation parties, school groups, Boy Scouts, 4-H and other activities.
The current Art Hall is the second building on the site. The original Art Hall was built around 1900 and was destroyed in a fire in 1936. The current Art Hall was built afterward, and then purchased by the city from the Platteville Fair Association in 1959.
“If you look around, you can pretty much see why we decided to build the building in September,” said LPEC committee chair Sheri Engelke at a public informational meeting in Art Hall in August.
Estimates are that each of the two halls, including the Bill and Mary Lou Broske Hall, will rent for $100 per day, up from $75 per day for Art Hall.
The new building will be available for year-round use, with publicly accessible bathrooms when Legion Park is open. It will have in-floor heat and air conditioning. It is being equipped with a sprinkler system to expand building capacity beyond 300 people. That will allow cooking within the building, using equipment formerly used in the former Benvenuto’s Italian Grill.
LPEC also will have wifi access, part of a planned expansion of city wifi from Legion Park to the Family Aquatic Center. The city and the Platteville Community Access Network plan to run fiberoptic cable to LPEC, the baseball/softball concessions building and Hill Field to the east. The city also plans to run fiberoptic cable to the Family Aquatic Center.
The project is starting this month because of a $100,000 pledge from the city, half funded by park impact fees, the other half from the Orlo Clayton Trust, which is restricted to improvements at Legion Park and Smith Park.
The new building will include one reminder of the old building. Donor recognition signs will be made of Art Hall siding.
The project is scheduled to be “substantially complete” by March 31 and completed by April 15.
The project received two donations during Dairy Days. A 1951 John Deere A tractor was sold for $2,500 to the Ron and Brenda Williams family, with proceeds donated by Dairy Days tractor pullers on behalf of Rodney “Ram Rod” Williams for the project.
The Dairy Days Committee also announced a donation of $3,000 per year for 10 years toward the project.