View from Gateway Arch boasts massive facility constructed by Prinsburg-based builders

PRINSBURG - You can't exactly see Prinsburg from atop the Gateway Arch in St. Louis. But ride the famous arch to its top, and you will get a good look at what a company from Prinsburg can accomplish.

PRINSBURG - You can't exactly see Prinsburg from atop the Gateway Arch in St. Louis. But ride the famous arch to its top, and you will get a good look at what a company from Prinsburg can accomplish.

Marcus Construction recently erected what is believed to be the country's largest fertilizer storage facility along the Mississippi River in St. Louis. At nearly 122,000 square feet, the newly built Lange-Stegmann building is large enough to hold two football fields.

In this case, it will be holding up to 65,000 tons of urea, an essential fertilizer for the Midwest's productive corn fields.

"For us, it's the next-level type of project,'' said Bruce Marcus, vice president of Marcus Construction.

Started in 1956, Marcus Construction is well-represented in Willmar by projects ranging from the Bremer Bank building to the Epicenter for the Assembly of God Youth Center.


Throughout much of the country and parts of Canada, Marcus Construction is well-known for building ever-larger grain and fertilizer storage facilities. Its biggest example in this region is the massive dry fertilizer facility built for Western Consolidated Cooperative of Holloway.

Yet it has never tackled a project as large as the St. Louis project, Marcus said.

Just to get a sense of its size, consider this fact: The 8,000 yards of concrete poured for the Lange-Stegmann building would be enough to build a three-foot sidewalk running along Minnesota Highway 7 from Prinsburg to downtown Hutchinson, a distance of 40 miles.

The concrete was needed for the 60-foot-tall piers that hold the support for the building's roof and the interior conveyor system. The building's roof required 1,500 squares of shingles.

The numbers don't begin to speak to the real complexity of this project. Urea is a corrosive substance, which meant that the building had to be built largely of concrete and wood in place of steel.

Also, its location along the Mississippi River created a challenge of its own, according to Shawn Peltier, project manager with Marcus Construction. The riverfront "gumbo'' is some 70 feet thick atop the bedrock. To set a building atop it capable of holding so much weight required driving 24-inch diameter piles every four feet.

Those challenges notwithstanding, the entire project was undertaken in only seven months, and well under budget. Marcus Construction returned a substantial, six-figure savings for the building's owner, Marcus said.

Work got underway in early March and was substantially completed in October. To make things happen on such a fast schedule, the building was erected in a progressive fashion. The foundation was still being built while work got underway on the concrete walls on the other end.


There were as many as 300 to 500 workers on the site, all of them union workers with a variety of different subcontractors. Eldon Aalderks of Willmar served as the on-site project supervisor.

Not one worker accident occurred during the project.

As workers and cranes erected the building, materials flowed to the site in the heart of the St. Louis industrial sector. Deliveries to the site included 2,000 I-joists -- some of the beams weighed 6,000 pounds, according to a published account of the project.

"The job went amazingly well,'' Marcus said.

The St. Louis building serves as the center of a fertilizer distribution system serving much of the Corn Belt. Urea is shipped to St. Louis on river barge, and unloaded by a conveyor system into the building. Several different customers operate out of the building, and rely on rail and truck transport to distribute the fertilizer to facilities and ultimately cornfields throughout the country's mid-section.

Marcus said the company has continued to develop and improve on its design for fertilizer and flat-grain storage facilities. The company has seen a steady demand for larger facilities as the country's appetite for corn has grown.

Will the future bring still larger projects? "I have no doubt,'' Marcus said.

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