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In three weeks, workers from a Draper, Utah, company will start pounding 530 steel pilings 25 feet down into bedrock to support a stable foundation for what will become the largest single retail store in Billings.

The Scheels store, covering the equivalent of one and one-third football fields on a nearly 15-acre site at Shiloh Crossing, will take nearly two years to build.

After just completing an identical Scheels store in Sandy, Utah, Scheels project manager Jason Loney is confident about staying on track in Billings.

“We will open Sept. 6 of 2014. Guaranteed. I don’t miss a date,” he said.

The Billings complex will cover 1.7 acres, offering plenty of indoor retail space for the sporting goods inventory, plus a Ferris wheel, bowling alley, shooting gallery, deli restaurant and 16,000-gallon salt water aquarium

holding 800 fish. There also will be a concrete mountain made to look like the real thing.

“A couple weeks before we open, we’ll put 200 to 300 taxidermy animals on that mountain,” Loney said.

Except for extending Shiloh Crossing Boulevard, the co-developers of Shiloh Crossing, Steve Corning and Joel Long, have finished the infrastructure work for Scheels.

“It’s probably the biggest project that I’ve seen, and I think the impact is going to be significant in Billings,” Long said.

Q&D Construction of Sparks, Nev., was hired as the general contractor.

Ralph Wadsworth Construction Co. of Draper, Utah, will drive all the piles into the ground. The work next to Shiloh 14 theater will last six weeks and then the foundation will be poured.

When the steel starts going up around Christmas, a dozen high-lift cranes will grace the skyline.

By July, the steel skeleton will be finished and the store will be fully enclosed by the end of next year.

“We’ll be pushing probably 300 workers when it’s full scale in the summer of ’13 through the spring of ’14,” said Q&D project manager Tobin Basta.

The construction workforce will total 400 to 500 people when you add in all the specialty workers building extras like the aquarium and Ferris wheel, Loney said.

Only the foundation work has been subcontracted so far. That part was priced at $1.7 million in the city of Billings building permit. The rest of the plans haven’t yet been submitted to the city.

Privately owned Scheels, formed in 1902, hasn’t released the total cost of its Billings project. The Shiloh building will be more than six times larger than the current store at Rimrock Mall.

CMG Construction Inc. of Billings was hired to excavate, and Martel Construction of Bozeman won the more than $1 million contract to build concrete caps on the pilings and pour concrete foundations.

“We’ll have 12 to 16 employees on this project for five months,” said executive vice president Jason Martel.

The largest store in this Fargo, N.D.-based sporting goods chain is in Sparks, Nev., at 295,000 square feet. Stores in Billings; Sandy, Utah; and Springfield, Ill., are 220,000 square feet. And Scheels is building a 100,000-square-foot store in Cedar Falls, Iowa, that will open in March.

Martel will buy concrete reinforcement steel from Knife River and Teton Steel of Montana, both Billings companies.

The megastore is expected to attract unrelated smaller stores that want to tap into such a regional retail draw.

“When people saw the magnitude of the store, we’ve had a lot of inquiries, as you can imagine,” Corning said.

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Business editor for the Billings Gazette.