Ground was blessed for the planned Meskwaki Travel Plaza just before noon on Monday, April 2, paving the way for construction to kick-off in mid-May.
Larry Lasley, Meskwaki Economic Development director, conducted the Blessing Ceremony in the Meskwaki language. Many Tribal members and those associated with the new project were on hand for the event.
"This is another big step in economic development for our Tribe," said Judith Bender, Tribal chair. She recognized the time spent planning the project and credited Tribal planners and council members for their work.
Meskwaki Tribal leaders, construction, design and oil company representatives pause on the site of the new Meskwaki Travel Plaza on Monday, April 21. Construction is expected to start in mid-May on the site just off the U.S. Highway 30 Expressway west of Toledo.
News-Herald Photos/John Speer
Lasley said the Travel Plaza cost is set at $6 million. It will be built directly west across the access road to the Trading Post off the U.S. Highway 30 Expressway.
General contractor for the work is Shingobee Construction, Waite Park, Minn. Tom Ollman, senior project manager for Shingobee said his company will initiate a Tribal Employment Rights Office in conjunction with the work. It will offer Tribal members employment and construction training opportunities he said.
Weather permitting, the Travel Plaza will be finished by mid-October.
Michael Laverdure, DSWG Architects, Lake Elmo, Minn., said the project represents diversity beyond the casino enterprise, noting his firm has been involved with "130 different projects (of this type) in the past 20 years."
"Blessing the ground" has replaced traditional ground-breaking for some Native?American projects as it is viewed as not "scarring the ground," Laverdure said.
Laverdure said the planned 10,000 sq. ft. Travel Plaza will be double the size of the current Trading Post operation.
Lasley, the Tribal economic director, said the plaza will have 28 full-time employees.
It will feature double the number of Trading Post fuel pumps and will include E85. Truckers will have a lounge area, separate bath area and internet access points.
There will be a special 50s-themed diner Laverdure said. He said Tribal members ar being invited to submit photos of themselves in 50s attire for possible use in decorating the diner area.
A smoke shop will continue as part of the business. There will be sales counters for both the convenience store area and for diesel customers.