A major milestone in the Grand Island Senior High Memorial Stadium renovation project was reached Wednesday afternoon as the final beam was placed on the top of the west stadium structure.

The project includes building a new west stadium structure featuring a two-tier press box, new restrooms, new concession stands and a multipurpose meeting room.

The total cost of the project is $17 million, and includes a $10 million lead gift from Grand Island Senior High alumnus Lanny Martin and a $2 million commitment from GIPS, via its QCPUF (Qualified Capital Purpose Undertaking Fund) and building funds.

The GIPS Foundation hopes to raise the remaining $5 million through a capital campaign currently underway.

To celebrate the last steel beam being placed, GIPS and the GIPS Foundation invited district staff and stakeholders to a ceremony where they could sign their name and a message on the beam before watching a crane erect it on the top of the west stadium structure.

Matt Schendt, vice president of Hausmann Construction, spoke during the ceremony and thanked GIPS for the opportunity to work on the Memorial Stadium construction project. He said erecting the final beam is a symbol of the completion of the west stadium “super structure,” but that there were a number of items placed on and around the beam that were also symbolic.

“You’ll see the American flag, which is a sign of patriotism for our country, and a Christmas tree or leafy branch,” Schendt said. “That signifies that this project has been completed to this stage with no major injuries or loss of life. That symbol also brings good luck to the future habitants of the facility as well.”

GIPS Superintendent Tawana Grover said Memorial Stadium is a community asset and a community project. She thanked those in attendance for their “immeasurable passion and dedication” given to the Memorial Stadium project.

“We are thrilled to be at this point in construction,” Grover said. “It is exciting and we look forward to seeing more progress this fall. As we gather to place this last beam, it truly signifies the value that our donors, boards and greater community have placed on our Grand Legacy (project) to help honor tradition and to invest in our future.”

In an interview with The Independent following Wednesday’s ceremony, Martin said he was excited to attend the event and to see how much progress has been made on the Memorial Stadium construction.

Martin said the west Memorial Stadium construction up to this point is everything he imagined and more. In fact, he said it is much larger than he expected it to be.

Martin said he is proud of the generosity of the Grand Island community in coming together to support the project.

“It has always been a community project,” he said. “I am happy to kick it off and get it started, but the community really came together to make it a reality. I think it is going to be used a lot by the high school, but also for community events.”

Martin said he hoped to see some statewide events held at Memorial Stadium once the project is complete. He added he plans to attend the first home football game in the newly renovated Memorial Stadium and its ribbon-cutting celebration.

GIPS Foundation Executive Director Traci Skalberg said the interior of west stadium will not be finished until early 2020. Renovations to east stadium will begin this fall. The entire project is scheduled to be complete in fall 2020.

In terms of fundraising, Skalberg said, the GIPS Foundation is $880,000 away from its primary fundraising goal of $15.3 million. To get to its expanded project goal, it needs to raise another $1.7 million.

“This project has been a labor of love, first from the Martin family and then from the Grand Island community,” Skalberg said. “When Lanny Martin dreamed of honoring the memory of his father, Jack, by investing in this incredible asset for Grand Island, collectively, you all rose to the challenge. We are all grateful for your investment.”

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