By Joe Buttweiler. Photos courtesy of Ben Furleigh.
CLEAR LAKE — No, it’s not a giant Wi-Fi transmitter.
But it will produce great music, if only for the time being in the minds of onlookers.
The space-age-looking structure beaming in the new plaza near the Surf Ballroom in Clear Lake is a monument to music legends Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens and J.P. “The Big Bopper” Richardson, who died in a plane crash following a Feb. 3, 1959 show at the Surf.
Look closely and you can see their names inscribed on the bottom record.
The fascinating structure, which was built by Sukup Manufacturing Co. in Sheffield, has been wowing passersby since 7 p.m. Sept. 28 when its blue lights first flashed on. A dedication ceremony is planned for Thursday, Oct. 13.
“It was fun listening to the comments Wednesday night of the people that stopped, and also watching the heads turn in the cars that slowed down along North Shore Drive,” said Ben Furleigh, a member of the Clear Lake City Council.
“I’ve had to explain to a few of the iPod generation what vinyl records are. Now the question I hear a lot is, “When is the city going to install the sound system?’ ”
Audio segments of the three stars’ music are expected later, but for now the piece is a visual marvel, especially at night with the lights on. It is located on North Shore Drive about a half block west of the Surf, at the site of a former Amoco station.
The city council voted to buy the site in August 2008. “It was becoming a big eyesore not far from our second-biggest tourism draw – the Surf Ballroom,” Furleigh said.
The property was contaminated with petroleum. Groundwater is still being monitored, which limited what the city could do with the parcel, Furleigh said.
He said the city commissioned RDG Planning and Design, based in Omaha, Neb., and Dahlquist Art Studio of Des Moines to come up with a concept plan for the area around the Surf. They presented the plan to the city council in February of 2009.
“We decided phase one would be the park and we left out the central art feature due to budget constraints at the time,” Furleigh said.
The park was completed in August of 2010 by Dean Snyder Construction. “So people have been driving by for a year wondering what’s going in the middle,” Furleigh said.
Jeff Nicholas with the Surf board of directors approached Steve Sukup, vice president and chief financial officer of Sukup Manufacturing, about the project and the Sukup family decided to take it on.
The first meeting between RDG, Sukup and the city was in December of 2010, Furleigh said.
He said an estimated 500 hours of fabrication time went into the project over the past 10 weeks — most by Brad Ufford of Sukup’s R&D Department.
About 20 people at Sukup worked on the project, said Furleigh, a quality engineer for the family-owned company. “Their pride really shows through in the final product,” he said, adding that the “best part of my day for the past 10 weeks was checking out what he (Ufford) got done each day.”
It was interesting, Furleigh said, to be manager of the Three Stars project at Sukup while, as a city council member, being a customer.
“On behalf of the city I have to thank the Sukup family for their generosity,” Furleigh said.
Steve Sukup said he supported the project because the Surf “is such an icon of North Iowa and Clear Lake.”
Signature projects like the Three Stars Plaza “can leave a lasting impression for visitors to our community. This great design ties into the culture and history of the Surf Ballroom.”
He said that working with Nicholas and the city made it easy to say yes to the project. As to the cost, he said it was “rumored to be over $40,000.”
Details of the Three Stars monument
– Central spindle has three stacked records.
– Bottom record has the names of Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens and J.P. Richardson inscribed on it.
– Fabrication started the week of July 25.
– Records are made of 3,900 pounds of 7-gauge stainless steel.
– Fifteen-foot central spindle weighs 1,600 pounds and is made of quarter-inch thick pipe. It is 24 inches wide.
– Blue neon lighting was manufactured by BL Lighting, Vancouver, British Columbia.
– Glossy black powder coating was purchased from Allan Industrial Coatings, Allison, IA.