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Clear Lake purchases new welcome signs, including two with LED video boards

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Welcome to Clear Lake LED.png

A rendering of Clear Lake's new welcome sign featuring an LED video board that was installed at Eighth Street and U.S. Highway 18. 

Motorists visiting Clear Lake this summer will be greeted in a new way.

That comes after the Clear Lake City Council unanimously approved the purchase and installation of four new welcome signs, including two with LED video boards and two without them, from LRI Graphics & Signs, of Grimes, for $87,061 Monday evening.

“You’re very familiar with the signs that we currently have. They don’t really express who we are as a community I don’t think at all,” said Scott Flory, Clear Lake city administrator. “They probably were appropriate back in the late ‘90s but certainly not in the 21st century, so I think this is a terrific project for us.”

The signs will replace those at the city’s main entrances: North 24th Street and U.S. Highway 18, Eighth Street and U.S. Highway 18, Buddy Holly Place and U.S. Highway 18 and Fourth Avenue South near TeamQuest Corp.

Current Welcome to Clear Lake sign

Clear Lake's welcome sign at the intersection of North 24th Street and U.S. Highway 18 is one of four that will be replaced this summer after the City Council's action Monday evening to have LRI Graphics & Signs, of Grimes, design and install ones that more appropriately reflected its progress.

The new welcome signs are the culmination of conversations between city staff and the Clear Lake Area Chamber of Commerce over the last couple years to update Clear Lake’s entryways to better promote the events and activities the community proudly hosts and celebrate its successes.

A letter of support from Clear Lake President and CEO Stacy Doughan for the project was included in the council’s packet.

“In 2020, we cut the ribbon on a state-of-the-art splash pad, broke ground on several new and exciting development projects, and saw our community band together to support local,” she wrote. “We also had business after business choose Clear Lake as their home. What better way to welcome individuals and businesses to our community than with signage that truly reflects Clear Lake’s image as a progressive and growing community?”

Bob Lashier, owner of LRI Graphics & Signs, attended the meeting Monday to discuss his company’s proposal.

Lashier, “a proud Clear Lake product,” owns a vacation home in the city and LRI Graphics & Signs is a chamber member.

Most recently, his company’s work has been showcased locally within the Clear Lake Community School District on such projects as the bleacher graphics at Lions Field, outfield graphics at the baseball field and the wall graphics and pads at the high school gymnasium.

Welcome to Clear Lake.png

A rendering of the new welcome sign that will replace the ones at the intersection of North 24th Street and U.S. Highway 18 and Fourth Avenue South near TeamQuest Corp. 

The signs proposed at the Eight Street, North 24st Street and Fourth Avenue South will read “Welcome to Clear Lake” and feature nautical elements, like dock posts and rope, with a fieldstone base to complement the improvements made at the Seawall downtown.

The sign at the entrance to the Surf District, which comprises the area surrounding the historic Surf Ballroom & Museum, will read “Welcome to Clear Lake’s Surf District” and feature a nod to the area’s strong rock ‘n’ roll ties with two metal guitars. Lashier said the Buddy Holly Place sign hasn’t been finalized yet.

The signs with the 4-by-10-foot single-sided LED video board will appear at the Eighth Street and Buddy Holly Place locations, while the static signs will be installed at North 24th Street and Fourth Avenue South.

Lashier said the LED boards at both locations can contain different messages, so information about the city’s Fourth of July celebration could appear on the Eighth Street sign, while an upcoming concert at the Surf Ballroom could be displayed on the Buddy Holly Place one.

They can also contain multiple messages and videos depending on the city’s desire.

“Really the sky is the limit,” Lashier said, noting the boards are easy to use.

LRI Graphics, he said, will provide the city lifetime training to operate and customize the signs.

Before the council approved the purchase of the signs, Councilman Mike Callanan posed questions about the integrity of the electronic signs and whether they’d be distractions along the busy U.S. Highway 18 corridor.

Lashier said the signs are weatherproof and much higher quality than many of the signs found along the corridor. Plus, he said the hardware is covered by a five-year warranty.

Welcome to the Surf District.png

A rendering of the sign that will welcome visitors to the Surf District at the intersection of Buddy Holly Place and U.S. Highway 18. The sign's design hasn't been finalized.

Clear Lake Police Chief Pete Roth said he didn’t have any concerns about the new signs being a distraction for motorists.

Councilman Bennett Smith said the new signs are a great idea for the city to promote itself.

“It’s just a terrific upgrade to do that,” he said.

The city staff and council could view the LED video board on a demo van after the meeting as they exited City Hall.

“That’s fantastic,” said Mark Ebeling, Clear Lake city councilman.

LRI Graphics & Signs is working with Country Landscapes and Metal Fabricators Inc. to complete the signs, and he’s confident that their pricing will “be a fraction of what the overall picture is,” Lashier said.

Country Landscapes will complete the nautical dock features, like the posts and rope, for each sign, while Metal Fabricators will cut the guitars for the sign at the entrance to the Surf District.

The cost also doesn’t include electrical to the signs.

Lashier said he’d like to have the signs made and installed and staff trained by the end of April, ahead of Clear Lake’s tourism season.

“I think it’s smart to invest in technology that’ll grow as you grow and these boards will,” he said. “If you want to start doing video, and who knows what your programmers and your content managers might want to put on there, this will enable you to do that versus some of the other boards that don’t have good enough resolution to do that.”

The signs were not a budgeted item for fiscal year 2021, but Flory said the city will use funds designated for community promotion and other community development projects for them. The budget will be amended accordingly, he added.

Ashley Stewart covers Clear Lake and arts and entertainment in North Iowa for the Globe Gazette. You can reach her at ashley.stewart@globegazette.com or by phone at 641-421-0533. Follow Ashley on Twitter at GGastewart.

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