150426_cave

ATCHISON, Kan. — An expansive underground complex nested in rural Atchison has stored new longevity on its already colorful past.

Smart Warehousing, a third-party logistics firm based in Kansas, took over control of the renowned caves site located just south of Atchison in April. Carl Wasinger, its chief executive officer, said this year’s unrelenting rainfall has crimped the progress of building new docks.

“I think we’re another 60 days from getting that done,” he said. “The one Achilles’ heel to a facility like this is ingress and egress.”

To compensate, Smart Warehousing relies on motorized equipment for its transportation needs throughout a meandering, climate-controlled space. A total of 25 to 30 trucks can be unloaded at present.

“The trucks today don’t have to wait,” he said.

President Jim Headley said the company can handle a wide range of industrial merchandise, including pharmaceuticals. But it does not deal with hazardous materials. E-commerce is being highly regarded for the portfolio of the future. There is plenty of room to expand.

“We’ve get a good atmosphere to store products,” he said. “We’re very focused on technology.

The actual real estate deal revolved around a purchase by an investment group, with a master lease used to cover the operations.

“We knew about it for quite a while,” Mr. Wasinger said. “The goal for the facility is to take advantage of the proximity to Kansas City and the region.”

The company has another, larger underground presence in Independence and says it is familiar with the precautions necessary to conduct its business.

Edwards Construction of Kansas City is subcontracting the docks. Pinnacle Electric of St. Joseph is assisting with the project. Numerous local contractors are also involved with the work.

The caverns are the aftermath of limestone mining operations in the late 1800s. The U.S. Army was one of the past tenants, using the space to hold ammunition, vehicles and other gear. Another effort, organized by The Vivos Group, sought to transform the area into a survival shelter — although the development was aborted in June 2014 out of concerns for structural stability and safety.

The complex is 100 to 150 feet below the surface and exhibits a fairly constant temperature of 70 degrees Fahrenheit.

For proprietary reasons, Smart Warehousing declined to identify the corporate clients using the caves.

Ray Scherer can be reached at ray.scherer@newspressnow.com. Follow him on Twitter: @SJNPScherer.