by Dave DeMars
The Sauk Rapids City Council discussed a proposal to build a field house at its March 28 meeting – a field house advocates say would meet the needs of a growing city.
The Storm Field House Athletic Community Center, as it was billed, was presented by St. Cloud Times Engagement Editor Randy Krebs and Mark Kotcho to the council about plans for an athletic field house to be built in Sauk Rapids.
The reasons for building a field house like those in surrounding communities were laid out in the slideshow presentation: constant demand for gym-like space, a growing city, expos and events, and more.
“Quite honestly, it probably came from more of an athletic perspective,” said Kotcho, who is part of a citizens-advocacy group.
In discussions among the group, Kotcho said they began to question whether it would not be possible to have a center that could be used for more than just an athletic center. They explored how the center could also be designed to host other types of events, such as expos and large meetings.
Under state law, a half-cent sales tax could be used to fund new regional athletic facilities and field houses, so the question was put to voters on Nov. 4, 2014, and passed by about a 50-percent margin. With strong support from almost 2,800 city residents, proponents of the facility began to tour the facilities of other communities, he said.
Many of the ideas incorporated into the conceptual drawings were drawn from concepts included in the Foley field house, according to Kotcho, but no site has been picked out, and the facility contains neither an ice sheet nor a pool.
In its research, the field-house-advocacy group visited facilities in Foley, Becker, Rockford, Buffalo, Monticello and Delano. In many cases, the field houses were attached to the schools or adjacent to them.
Krebs told the council the cost for the building in 2014, two years ago, was about $6.7 million. That covered the construction costs, architectural and engineering fees, legal and financing costs, furniture, fixtures and equipment, as well as land, site development, utilities and parking lot.
The building itself would occupy about 57,000- to 60,000-square feet.
“We are talking very general points here,” Krebs said. “We are trying to get agreement – general approach of all three parties (the citizens advocacy group, the school district and the city) on the bigger-picture things rather than working out the details here.”
Krebs went on to say the school district had given the nod to some kind of partnership provided that the building was sited, and designed in a way that was acceptable to them. If conditions were met, the school district would ostensibly take on the role of operations and daily maintenance of the facility.
What the advocacy group envisioned was a kind of partnership between the advocacy group, the school district and the city. The city, by virtue of its ability to raise money through the half-cent sales tax, would assume the role of getting the field house built.
But how capital maintenance costs could be handled in five, 10 or 20 years remains to be seen; capital maintenance would include things such as replacing the floor, roof, heating and cooling units, and structural changes that might be needed. Solving the capital-maintenance costs is a stumbling block for the project, Krebs said.
“These are costs that will happen when I am 80,” Krebs said.
Krebs suggested in 20 years, the half-cent sales tax might be used for capital-maintenance items and that various sports groups and supporters might pledge funds for repairs, or possibly naming rights for the field house could be sold.
“As we move forward now, these long-term costs are a challenge we are trying to overcome,” Krebs said.
Krebs finished his presentation by saying the advocacy group would like to hear back from the council within about a month and then asked for questions.
No questions from the council were forthcoming, and Mayor Brad Gunderson moved on to other business.
Art Buhs commented on the police force saying he felt two additional officers need to be added to the force. That would bring the department to 17 officers and one canine.
“I’ve ridden along with these guys – and I have a pretty good insight into what they encounter, and what they run in to,” Buhs said. “Most of us choose not to go there and do that profession for obvious reasons. We need to help those guys – those people, men and women – any way we can.”
Author: Dave DeMars
Born and raised in Wisconsin – a “Happy Days” high school experience. Attended UW-River Falls and followed their motto – “Where the free spirit prevails.” Four years in the Army Security Agency (Spies), 31 years teaching English and directing plays. Other jobs – gandy dancer, counselor at mental institution, snowmaker, apple picker, concrete finishing, janitor, furniture mover, appliance sales, insurance sales, media sales, real estate, and writer. I am skeptical to a fault and like all human being I am more oxymoron than I am anything else. I blog at http://www.curmudgeonstwist.net/