By Antonio Sierra

East Oregonian

PENDLETON — Months of whispers that gave way to months of planning will now give way to months of construction.

Contractors working for the Pendleton Round-Up Association are expected to break ground within the next few days on their “south campus” expansion on the corner of SW Court Avenue and 12th Street.

Joseph Hull is the director of business development/operations for McCormack Construction Co., which is managing the project.

Hull said crews will spend the coming weeks tearing out asphalt from the parking lot and leveling the ground.

Once contractors are ready to begin building vertically, Hull said they will not take a break for the winter months and press forward through the winter weather as much as possible.

McCormack took a similar approach when it built the new Pendleton Fire Station earlier this year.

Most of the snow held off until February, allowing crews to seal the building before the precipitation hit.

With heavy equipment moving in and out of the site and underground utility work, Hull said McCormack and the Round-Up are planning the project so that any necessary road closures occur on SW 12th rather than the busier Court Avenue.

Hull said the contractors aim to have the new building complete “well ahead” of the 2020 Round-Up.

The new building is meant to consolidate the Round-Up’s retail, ticketing and administrative operations into one building.

As it stands now, all of those various departments are scattered around the facilities near the arena and the Round-Up and Happy Canyon Hall of Fame.

“It will be like a family reunion,” Round-Up President Dave O’Neill said. “All under one roof again.”

While Round-Up staff and officials will be getting used to the new digs by the time the next rodeo starts, O’Neill said the directors are aiming to make the transition less onerous by staggering the move.

O’Neill said Grounds Director Tim Smith has taken the lead on the planning process for the Round-Up, although O’Neill was quick to note that Smith kept his role as rodeo director and his day job as the water superintendent for the city of Pendleton separate.

Following months of rumors, the Round-Up purchased the old Albertsons property in January 2018 for an undisclosed sum.

The Round-Up considered how to use the vacated supermarket building for six months before scrapping the building entirely to temporarily create a 275-spot parking lot.

The board of directors simultaneously committed to building a new multipurpose facility directly across from the Round-Up’s bucking horse statue.

After conferring with Smith, O’Neill said the footprint of the new facility will take up 75 parking spots, leaving 200 spots for vehicles.