Dole workers push deadline

Laborers toil as dedication nears for KU institute

The Dole Institute of Politics looked more like a workshop than a monument Tuesday.

Ladders, tool boxes and shop vacs cluttered the building’s stone floors. The smell of varnish hung heavy in the 3,300-square-foot exhibit gallery. Piles of sawdust collected in the corners.

Next week, the national spotlight will be on the building, with NBC, CBS and C-SPAN covering dedication events including such dignitaries as former Presidents Jimmy Carter and Gerald Ford.

In spite of the last-minute work, Richard Norton Smith, the institute’s director, said he was certain the building would be completed in time for the first public tours at 5 p.m. Saturday.

“It will be done,” Smith said. “We’re assured it will be cleaned up and presentable.”

More than a dozen workers were installing exhibits Tuesday and expect to have them finished later this week. The dedication — at 10:30 a.m. Tuesday — is preceded by three days of events revolving around World War II veterans.

Terry Hall, lead builder for the exhibit company, Split Rock Studio in St. Paul, Minn., said his firm couldn’t install the Bob Dole artifacts until the structure’s construction was complete. Split Rock started working in Lawrence about three weeks ago, after working on the exhibits in Minnesota for six months.

He said workers had been on the job from 6 a.m. to 8 p.m. or 9 p.m. every day.

“We would have liked a little more time to install, but typically we work right up until opening day,” Hall said. “We will be done.”

Terry Brown with Museum Professional Inc. of Hamel, Minn., adds items on the life and career of former Sen. Bob Dole to one of the display cases along the walls of the grand hallway at the Dole Institute of Politics. The official opening of the center is Saturday, and Brown and several other workers were busy Tuesday putting the finishing touches on the 1 million building in preparation for dedication events early next week.

Workers were installing bricks at the front entrance Tuesday that were purchased for $250 each to honor or memorialize others. Today, crews will install two large panels with 960 8×10 photos of Kansas World War II veterans — called the “Memory Wall.”

The only portion of the institute that won’t be ready for the dedication will be the satellite uplink equipment, which should be in place by October, officials said.

The $11.3 million, 28,000-square-foot building has been under construction since October 2001. It initially was to be completed in April, but construction delays pushed back the move-in day.

Smith and Dole picked July 22 as the dedication date because it’s Dole’s 80th birthday.

Smith led a media tour of the building Tuesday, one of many tours he’s given in the past few weeks. Interest in the building has increased to the point the institute hired a private security guard to keep out visitors until construction is complete.

The building isn’t all Smith is crossing his fingers about as the dedication nears. He’s also hoping his health holds up for the event.

He’s had trouble with gallstones for several years, but the pain increased last weekend.

“I spent two days flat on my back,” he said.

Smith said he was scheduled to have his gall bladder removed Wednesday, the day after the dedication.

“Then on Friday I’m going to Nantucket to look at the ocean,” he said.