Part of the south side Oktoberfest grounds will be ripped up and demolished this winter as part of a clean-up project to remove contaminated soil.
The Department of Natural Resources has okayed that clean-up plan put forth by Xcel Energy. It involves digging up contaminated soil that's located mostly on the company's own land, but about 10 percent of the project includes soil under the Oktoberfest grounds - and to get to it, the company will demolish the main beer hall along with two other pavilions.
But according to Oktoberfest officials, the clean-up won't have an impact on 2014's event. Xcel has agreed to fund the replacement of those buildings.
"What we have been assured is that whatever disruptions there are, that they're going to be made whole again, so to speak, and everything will be taken care of," said Doug Kratt, member of the Oktoberfest Board of Directors.
The project should be finished by the end of winter, and officials say there's plenty of time to re-build before next Oktober.
"There's been a lot of rumors out there, and we're just trying to dispell [them.] It's really not going to affect Oktoberfest," Kratt said.
Xcel cannot move forward with the DNR-approved demolitions until it reaches an agreement with Cleary Management, the owner of the south side Oktoberfest grounds, but officials from the energy company said they don't anticipate any problems going forward. Excavation could begin as early as November.
The clean-up project itself is one of three that Xcel has pursued on land near the Oktoberfest grounds in the last 30 years. Contamination of the soil there stems from a gas manufacturing plant that ran for 75 years, leaking chemicals like arsenic and lead into the ground. About 90 percent of the project is slated for land Xcel already owns, and the remaining 10 percent comprises a small portion of the Oktoberfest grounds.
DNR officials say the contamination doesn't pose a threat to public health, because the soil is buried beneath asphalt and buildings.
Xcel has finished similar remedial projects in Chippewa Falls and Eau Claire with no problems.