Builders to Start Work on Event Center

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    The Lewis County Public Facilities District board voted Tuesday at a special meeting to give Board Chair Judy DeVaul the authority to sign a contract to begin construction on the 75,600-square-foot indoor Event Center at the Fort Borst Park sports complex in Centralia. The contract would be the second attempt to bring a contractor on-board to build the facility.

    A formality at this point, the $2.14 million design-build contract with Kaufman Brothers Construction Inc. of Olympia is expected to be signed and executed later this week after minor changes approved by the board are made to contract language.

    A contract with the previous contractor, Drury Construction, was terminated in June for what the board categorized as bad communication between the two entities. The new contract covers Phase I construction of the Event Center, the centerpiece of the larger Lewis County Event Center and Sports Complex that includes new multi-use outdoor ball fields, tennis courts, parking and trails.

    The development of the sports complex facility is a public-private enterprise between the PFD, the city of Centralia, the Centralia School District and Lewis County LLC, an organization of local investors that includes Dale Pullin, owner of Thorebeckes FitLife Centers.

    The PFD board is in part tasked with managing $7.8 million in project funds provided by public partners including the city of Centralia, Centralia School District and Lewis County Trails, and $400,000 pledged by Lewis County LLC. That public responsibility sometimes creates tension between the PFD board, with a primary responsibility of making sure public money is spent wisely, and the LLC, which is anxious to move ahead with the facility quickly so it can begin scheduling events.

    The new construction contract includes provisions for potential additions, or “alternates,” to the Phase 1 contract as it evolves, including the possible installation of a second floor mezzanine, currently part of Phase II construction. Pullin had previously asked the board to consider adding the mezzanine to the Phase I contract, although it would not be usable without an elevator, a legal requirement that would allow the disabled equal access. Adding the elevator would also add $50,000 or more to the Phase 1 cost, a cost the board balked at.

    The evolving shape of the facility — and the cost to provide it — is sometimes a source of tension between the appointed members of the board and the private investor side of the group, who want to ensure the Event Center’s end result will meet the financial needs and operational design the group has “put out for the PFD,” Pullin, who attended the meeting, said.

    “The PFD can’t guarantee that whatever building we provide will guarantee the LLC your financial success,” Board Chair Judy DeVaul said.

    DeVaul noted that the board would provide a building that fits within its budget.

    The project could begin demolishing existing structures to make room for the Event Center as early as next week. Construction of the foundation could begin in two weeks, according to John Kaufman of Kaufman Brothers Construction. Other than demolition work, actual construction is pending permitting approval by the city of Centralia, according to project architect Paul McCormick of INNOVA Architects of Tacoma.

    Once completed, Lewis County LLC will enter into a 20-year, renewable lease with the PFD, which is the owner of the facility. The LLC will be responsible for the facility’s operation. In exchange, the PFD will receive $25,000 per year. The LLC is also required to provide “some benefit for Lewis County,” such as hosting high school graduations or other events at the Event Center, according to Bowman.

    “The idea is we build this building for the better good,” Bowman said.

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    Lee Hughes: (360) 807-8239