New athletic complex plans get green light

by Tim Hennagir
Life Editor

Revised plans for Blaine’s last multi-use recreation area, a large athletic facility and neighborhood park, have received favorable review from the city council.

This park schematic shows proposed field locations for Blaine’s last, large multi-use recreation area, a combination athletic facility and neighborhood park, which would be located off Lexington Avenue. Click on the image to see a larger map. Map courtesy Blaine GIS

Bryan Schafer, community development director, and Jim Kappelhoff, park and recreation director, presented details of the proposed east side complex during a Jan. 12 workshop.

Paxmar Development purchased the 180-acre Finn Farm site at the southeast corner of 125th Avenue and Lexington Avenue in Blaine last spring.

According to Schafer, council consensus at the time was to move forward and work with the developer to see if some type of agreement could be reached.

After additional negotiation, Schafer said city staff and Paxmar eventually agreed another 38.5 acres to the south owned by Paxmar, next to the Woodland Development housing project, would be a better site for a combination athletic facility and neighborhood park.

“It became fairly clear that the cost of 30 acres to the north was fairly high,” Schafer said.

“We were charging an uphill battle. Woodland is supportive of the revised plan, which includes amenities such as open space and trails,” Schafer said.

While there are specific financial details to be worked out between the city and Paxmar, Schafer said the park purchase price would include a combination of cash and park dedication credits totaling $2.3 million.

In a background memo, Schafer recommended an $800,000 cash payment this year. The remaining $1.5 million would be owed as a park dedication credit against future development.

Paxmar’s property development is estimated to yield close to $2 million, Schafer said. Later development phases would generate about $500,000, he said.

While firm engineering estimates have not been completed, it would cost approximately $1.5 million to $2 million for overall park construction, Schafer said.

“This number is well beyond the current financial ability of the city’s park fund,” Schafer wrote in a council memo. “Development would need to be delayed until sufficient park dedication has been collected or another source of funding identified.”

A possible alternative funding source is the city’s capital improvement fund (CIF), Schafer said.

The fund was established by ordinance in 1995 as a means to fund projects that are of city-wide benefit.

The fund has a current spendable balance of roughly $1.7 million, Schafer added, stating the CIF funds could either be spent outright for the proposed park or be structured as a loan and repaid to the CIF.

A potential schedule for the park would involve land acquisition the middle part of this year, design and bid work in the fall and early 2013 and construction starting the summer of 2013, ending in 2014.

Three to four fields for youth baseball and youth and adult softball and five-multi-use fields for football, soccer and lacrosse, a full basketball court, four lighted tennis courts would be ready in September 2014.

Kapplehoff addressed specific park use during his workshop comments.

“This park will fit nicely into the neighborhood,” he said. “It will help relieve pressure on our other fields, especially those being used for youth athletic needs.”

Schafer and Kappelhoff said lighted fields would significantly increase field use and should be built and lit early in development process to establish presence prior to homes being built.

A direct right-in, right-out access onto northbound Lexington Avenue would provide access to the park.

Councilmembers were generally supportive of the proposed park field layout, but during the workshop discussion, a number of refinements were suggested.

For example, Councilmember Dave Clark wondered if certain park elements could be shifted to better utilize the space.

He suggested adding a handball wall.

Councilmember Mike Bourke suggested moving the tennis courts so another Little League field could be added, and Councilmember Dick Swanson asked Kappelhoff about rugby, since a group of players were using Mary Elizabeth Park as a seasonal field location.

“We haven’t had any rugby requests yet,” Kappelhoff said. “We can try and go back and get the Little League field into the park plan. There is a lot of potential here. It will transform as it goes along.”

Schafer told the council the proposed park and fields would be part of the last large athletic complex built by the city of Blaine.

City Manager Clark Arneson said he and City Finance Director Joe Huss would schedule a meeting with the city’s bond council to discuss financing options for the proposed complex.

Schafer estimated it would cost $4 million to totally complete the new park.

Tim Hennagir is at [email protected]