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Bonanzaville receives critical funding

The construction of the Lucien C. Barnes Pavilion at Bonanzaville in West Fargo should be completed by late June. Tyler Shoberg / West Fargo Pioneer1 / 2
Cass County Historical Societ Executive Director Troy White addresses the crowd during a press conference last week at Bonanzaville in West Fargo. Tyler Shoberg / West Fargo Pioneer2 / 2

The Cass County Historical Society has big plans for Bonanzaville, and thanks to some timely financing, their dreams soon should come true.

On March 28, CCHS Executive Director Troy White announced during a press conference that the organization had received $800,000 in funding needed to complete work on several ongoing projects, including Bonanzaville's Lucien C. Barnes pavilion and the remodeling of the existing museum.

United States Department of Agriculture state director Jasper Schneider said the project has widespread appeal.

"It is an exciting day," said Schneider, a Fargo resident. "This project has truly made Bonanzaville a travel destination."

State Bank and Trust leads a five-bank coalition that participated in the loan that was guaranteed by USDA Rural Development.

Of the $800,000, approximately $500,000 was needed to pay General Contractor Lee Jones and Sons for work already completed, White said. The remainder will be utilized to finish the expansion project, which includes a new museum, event center, classroom, concession area, and historical library and archive.

Dave Martin, Choice Financial Vice President of Communications, said the $800,000 was a guaranteed loan for 20 years and a 5 1/2 percent interest rate.

White, who took over as executive director in September, said the process of finding financial backing began seven months ago when he brought together several local banks, Schneider, and SBA District Director Jim Stai to explore the best options available.

According to a press release, Schneider agreed to provide support to the project as long as Bonazaville met the criteria and could show future growth and stability - problems in the historical site's past.

In January, Bonanzaville submitted a five-year feasibility plan to the USDA Rural Development and the five-bank coalition, consisting of State Bank and Trust, Choice Financial, Western Bank, First International Bank and Trust, and Starion Financial.

It was approved.

"We got to the finish line" March 23, White said. "There was a lot of excitement and even a few tears."

Construction is scheduled to resume this week, with the main museum's expected completion four to six weeks later, White said. The second-floor event center and the library should be completed by the end of June, he said.

"This is the next chapter; to get new people to Bonanzaville," Schneider said.

White said that while Bonanzaville does not plan to add any new exhibits or attractions at this time, it does plan on expanding its exhisting exhibits and events in order "to make them better."

"It should be a nice revenue stream for us," White said.

The museum expansion also means Bonanzaville will be open year-round in the future, he said, and will allow the facility to host events during a less competitive time of year.

"It's been crowded here forever, there is never enough room to do this or do that," said Bob Jostad, a Bonanzaville volunteer who goes by "Farmer Bob" and member of its board of directors. "We get up to 7,000 kids a year through here during the summer, and now we can show them a quality experience."

"It's always about the kids," Jostad added. "This is a vital addition."