Grand Prairie dinosaur museum back on track

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by Richard Gilbert last update:Sep 25, 2014

The construction of the Philip J. Currie Dinosaur Museum in the County of Grande Prairie is moving forward with the help of the local council, after the project's tendering process was delayed due to a budget shortfall.
Teeple Architecture
Teeple Architecture


“The county had already put $7.6 million into the capital project. With that and money we had from the province, we were still $12 million short to complete the project,” said Brian Brake, executive director of the Pipestone Creek Dinosaur Initiative, which is the team responsible for the realization of the museum project.

“I made an appeal to the county and asked them to give us enough funds to proceed immediately with construction. Once we did this, we would do fundraising to build the displays.”

The County of Grande Prairie No. 1 Council voted recently to provide up to $5 million to move ahead with construction of the Philip J. Currie Dinosaur Museum, which will be a 41,000 sq. ft. facility located in the town of Wembley, just off Highway 43.

The overall contribution of the county is now $12.6 million, while the Alberta Government will invest $10 million and the City of Grande Prairie has committed $3.5 million.

To obtain the additional funds for the project, county council is going to borrow more money, which has to be done in accordance with a borrowing bylaw.

This will give the public a chance to respond to the decision by May 27.

According to Brake, museum construction ran into significant challenges when council approved a move to the tendering stage in December 2012.

“When we went to tender, the project was expected to come in $1.5 million less than it came in,” he said.

“We didn’t have a good response from local contractors, who were not experienced in this type of work. The complexity of the design created some anxiety about constructing the building, especially the angular formwork.”

During the tendering process, the cost of building the facility increased to about $5 million more than the planned budget of $30 million. However, there was already an existing shortfall of $7 million.

“The structure of the facility is very challenging and there are many sharp corners in the basement, due to the unique design of the roofline, which features glulam beams,” said Brake.

Initially Teeple Architects were responsible for the design of the museum, but Edmonton-based ATB took over the project from for the construction phase.

The project faced an overall shortfall of nearly $12 million and the tendering process was delayed when the bids were returned.

“Our concern was the delay would stop us from getting the backfill on the foundation in place before winter, in accordance with the construction schedule of the contractor PCL Construction Management,” said Brake.

PCL, which has a $24.7 million contract for the construction of the museum, is confident this work can be achieved within the scheduled timeframe.

The museum, which is named after Canada’s preeminent palaeontologist, will include a dinosaur gallery of large skeletons, an oil and gas wing, a theatre, two technology classrooms and a palaeontology lab, where visitors can observe scientists at work.

Brake said the display contract was tendered out, short-listed and a company was selected.

However, the Pipestone Creek Dinosaur Initiative still has to raise another $7 million for the museum and displays.

“We are very interested in what they have proposed and want them to extend the length of the proposal for a couple of months, for us to raise enough funds,” said Brake.

“We want the display contractor working with the contractor responsible for the building. The fabrication and installation of individual displays is just as time consuming and complex as the building.”

The construction of the museum is scheduled for completion in the fall of 2014.

The planning for the museum has been underway for more than 10 years, with a staff at the Pipestone Creek Dinosaur Initiative working full-time on the project since late 2010.

The museum is expected to provide significant economic benefits for the region, while also providing a center of excellence for research and education.

The museum will serve as a link in the chain of known dinosaur-heavy deposits spanning from Milk River, Alta. through to Tumbler Ridge, B.C.

Other sites along this route include the famous fossil beds at the Alberta Dinosaur Park and Royal Tyrell Museum — each of which sees about 400,000 visitors every year.

last update:Sep 25, 2014

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