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Published September 04, 2012, 10:35 AM

Big Iron: The new Schollander

This year’s attendees can enjoy one of the biggest single capital projects to come to the event in the show’s history — a revamped front-end of Schollander Pavilion.

By: Mikkel Pates, Agweek

WEST FARGO, N.D. — The 32nd annual Big Iron Farm Show will bring flocks of farmers to the region’s largest agricultural equipment and business exposition Sept. 11 to 13. This year’s attendees can enjoy one of the biggest single capital projects to come to the event in the show’s history — a revamped front-end of Schollander Pavilion.

Bryan Schulz, general manager of both Big Iron and the Red River Valley Fair Association, which hosts the annual event at the Red River Valley Fairgrounds, says the pavilion, built some 44 years ago, will have a $1.8 million front end, and a revamped purpose for one of its most identifiable landmarks.

The new facility has a motif reminiscent of state fair structure classics, with a “castle” suggestion, including turrets and flags at the top to draw attention. The colors are earth tones and suggest brick work structures.

The entire addition is about 22,000 square feet, 11,000 square feet on each of two floors. The burnished-block look is complemented with floors that in many places have an upscale epoxy finish.

The main entrance is downstairs in the pavilion, along with a set of ample, modern bathrooms, updated and right-sized facilities for both women and men, as well as conference rooms, which will host a couple of seminars every day during Big Iron.

The new Schollander brings the fair/Big Iron offices into new, modern facilities on the south side of the second floor, in a 3,000-square-foot space. The facility includes seven office spaces, as well as a range of conference rooms and workspaces.

The second floor on the north side also will be home to the North Dakota Trade Office’s annual Big Iron hosting of up to 150 foreign agribusiness dignitaries. That 3,000-square-foot space will include a kitchenette, bathrooms, full wireless internet access and meeting spaces.

“We’re trying to showcase what North Dakota can do, as far as providing them with ag products,” Schulz says. The new facility will better host the foreign attendees than did the steel building the international event previously occupied. “It’ll be something that can showcase what we really have in North Dakota.”

The NDTO will lease the facility for 10 years and will be responsible for renovations. The agency, whose main offices are in downtown Fargo, N.D., also will use the building for monthly meetings.

“We need to look at the future, and we needed expanded space for staffing and for possible conventions,” says Schulz, who has managed the organization since 2008. The fair board’s recent sale of a soccer complex to the city of West Fargo helped finance the structure. Among other things, the addition makes Schollander fully handicap-accessible.

The facility had a budget of $1.64 million, but also received a $200,000 grant from the North Dakota Department of Commerce’s infrastructure grant program. Some of the cost involved burying electrical lines and rerouting water lines. It’s a large investment for an organization that typically spends about $250,000 a year in capital projects.

Proud history

“Schollander” is synonymous with the modern Red River Valley Fair and is a key facility for its Big Iron show.

Initially, Schollander was an indoor arena for the grounds, but also a multi-purpose facility. In the 1970s and 1980s, it was also West Fargo’s hockey arena. Many of the cattle shows at the Red River Valley Fair were held there. The pavilion is about 45,000 square feet, sitting in front of an annex and a 28,800-square-foot horse arena.

In recent years, the south section of the bleachers was removed to open the facility up for Big Iron, allowing bigger combines into the structure. John Deere occupies the space during Big Iron, and has used the indoor venue to its utmost, with high-tech electronic demonstrations and presentations. “John Deere has really grown in there,” Schulz says.

The new addition will offer access to the existing pavilion, plus a roll gate that allows the new part to be more securely shut during times when it is being used for large animal events. The addition allows for ample exit strategies from the facility, which will help Big Iron attendees enjoy a safe show.