The challenge is to create a “slice” of the Ozarks’ beautiful environment — a habitat where visitors can explore and discover the rich opportunities of a very unique “walk in the woods.” Turner Construction company, a national firm providing a complete range of construction and program management services, is rising to the challenge and making this visitor experience and exhibit concept a reality. Turner is building the Wonders of Wildlife, the American National Fish and Wildlife Museum on land donated by John Morris, the founder of Bass Pro Shops in Springfield, MO.
Just imagine being the contractor for a facility that houses approximately 1.9 million liters (500,000 gal.) of water including a pool with a waterfall. Envision the building on the parking lot of a giant retail operation that is also Missouri’s top tourist attraction, visited by more than four million people a year. Now, add the fact that the site is at an intersection that sees 63,000 cars pass daily.
Turner officials were on hand Oct. 4, 1999, when ground was broken for the $50-million, 8,280-square- meter (92,000 sq. ft.) project that is slated to open in the fall of 2001.
“We have a number of unique challenges with this project. One of the biggest will obviously be coordinating construction activities with Bass Pro activities,” said Mark Bloomfield, project executive, Turner Construction. “The architect spent a lot of time designing a facility to appear as if it were in the Ozarks’ woods. Our challenge will be to recreate that feeling at the corner of a busy interchange.”
Cambridge Seven Associates of Boston, MA, is the architectural firm working with Turner.
“I’ll be visiting the site about every two weeks, but I’ll be communicating daily with the Turner staff on site via e-mail. Digital cameras will allow images to go back and forth on a regular basis,” said Lisa Schmidt, project architect, Cambridge Seven. “We’re also discussing a Web site as a way to send information.”
Turner Project Manager Don Payne said the congestion of the site and its close proximity to a major retail space would be the biggest challenges.
Site work is under way and safety will be of key concern throughout the two-year construction process. For Turner, the first order of business that is visible to the thousands who pass the site daily is the construction of the fence enclosing and securing the site.
“Even getting the fence up proved to be a bigger challenge than we thought it would be,” said Ed Giltner, site superintendent, Turner Construction. “We took up a great deal of space that was previously customer parking and had to reroute traffic because we closed one of their main parking entrances.”
Jolley Excavating Inc. of Rogersville, MO, is among the first of many contractors at the site. The asphalt has been stripped from the parking lot and excavation is under way. Original plans called for basement footing to be set on bedrock, but conditions at the site resulted in a change to drilled pier foundations. The new depth of approximately 3 meters (10 ft.) will still provide adequate room in the basement for the necessary mechanical system. Jolley’s Excavating’s equipment on-site includes two Dresser dozers, one Cat track loader, one Bomag vibratory roller and one Komatsu front end loader.
According to Turner officials, local contractors will be used when possible, but some aspects of the job may require the use of specialty trades or subcontractors. In some instances, only a handful of companies across the nation do the kind of work that the project will require.
The Wonders of Wildlife Museum is designed to be a unique, educational, immersive museum experience that provides visitors with the history of hunting and fishing, raises their consciousness as to the importance of conservation, and seeks to instill a desire to become personally involved in preserving the wonders viewed in the facility.
Turner will construct a large pond at the intersection of the streets outside the museum. The pond is positioned to reflect the museum’s facade. A small stream will run along the north side of the building and flow into a smaller pond that will be built near the museum entrance. An aligned series of pylons in the parking lot, as well as landscaping of trees native to Missouri will guide visitors to the museum; visitors will cross a bridge spanning the stream to access the vestibule.
Visitors will walk on a wooden aerial walkway built by Turner, and they’ll be surrounded by living and artificial trees. A stream will move along the forest floor below, and a distant waterfall also will be visible from two small overlooks and two larger discovery perches.
Visitors also will be able to watch a family of beavers and numerous fish.
The design of the museum calls for visitors to be surrounded on three sides by water when they stand within the curve of a floor to ceiling acrylic window. This window will be provided by Reynolds Polymer Technology Inc. The window will be 4.2 meters (14 ft.) tall and 7.6 meters (25 ft.) wide. It will weigh approximately 10,350 kilograms (23,000 lbs.). It will be 24.1 centimeters (9.5 in.) thick and will be set in concrete. Because of its size, the window must be set in place before the roof is installed.
“One of my challenges will be to protect the large pieces of acrylic during the rest of the construction process once they are installed,” Giltner said. “They must be protected from the sunlight so they won’t yellow or expand. Once they are in, we’ll cover them with protective materials and build a partition in front of them.”
In addition to the fresh water aquarium, the main salt water aquarium will feature a similar type of window about 4 meters (13 ft.) tall and 5.8 meters (19 ft.) wide. It will be about 15.2 centimeters (6 in.) thick and weigh approximately 5,400 kilograms (12,000 lbs.).
“This is a very detail-oriented project. When we pour the concrete for the tank walls it must match the thickness of the acrylic with exact precision. There will be lots of coordination between the trades,” Giltner explained.
At the peak of construction, more than 100 crew members will be working on the site in order to meet the target grand opening date of November 2001.