The site plan for the new Castle Field has received a stamp of approval from both the Anoka City Council and the Planning Commission.
The council gave its approval Monday, after reviewing plans for the $1.9 million ball field planned along Seventh Avenue at the Anoka High School.
The Anoka-Hennepin School District has committed to donating the land for the ball field, which will become property of the city.
The field required a conditional use permit because it is located in an R-1 residentially zoned area of the city, according to City Planner Erik Thorvig.
Parks and recreational areas owned or operated by public bodies are allowed in residential areas.
Conditions set by the Planning Commission included provisions on field lighting, as well as the requirement for the planting of trees to provide screening between the Castle Field parking lot and the residential properties to the east side of Seventh Avenue. Also, all trash enclosures must be aesthetically screened.
Thorvig also outlined the access plans for Castle Field, which will take place at a new full intersection that will go in at 40th Lane. This will be part of an Anoka County Highway Department project in this neighborhood. The full intersection could be changed to three quarters, once 40th Lane is extended to connect with Bunker Lake Boulevard, according to Thorvig.
If the intersection was downsized, drivers would not be able to make a left turn at 41st Lane to go north on Seventh Avenue. Instead, drivers would follow 40th Lane to Bunker Lake Boulevard, where they would then make a right turn towards the intersection at Bunker and Seventh Avenue.
These plans have been approved by both the city of Anoka and Anoka County as part of a joint powers agreement.
“A lot of work has been done over the past 10 months to get it where it is today,” said Thorvig on the plans for Castle Field.
The council Monday also approved the plans and specifications for the project, and authorized the advertisement for bids.
It is expected to award a contract May 7, with construction to begin soon after.
The bids will be for phase one of the project, which includes the ball field and needed infrastructure, except for the building planned for under the bleacher seating. That building will house concessions, storage and restrooms. The council is expected to go out for bids on this second phase later this year.
“The timing of that will be based on some fund-raising,” said Public Services Director and City Engineer Greg Lee. “We have funding sources for phase one, but for phase two we do not.”
The first phase is estimated to cost nearly $1.5 million.
The city contracted with Anderson-Johnson Associates to design the new ball field, with extensive input from the Castle Field Committee – a group of local stakeholders including city and school district staff as well as representatives of the Anoka American Legion and the ball clubs that use Castle Field.
Councilmembers Mark Freeburg and Carl Anderson took part in the committee, which first discussed both the idea of refurbishing the current Castle Field, and then the preferred option of building a new ball park.
Freeburg said even though the community has been talking about the possible relocation of Castle Field for 20 or 30 years, the project has come together quickly.
“This is going to be one of the nicest ball fields in the state of Minnesota,” said Freeburg. “It’s going to cost a little bit of money, but it is going to be a great asset.”
Building a new ball park has also renewed the discussion about potential naming rights, along with advertising, at city-owned facilities.
At a work session Monday, the council looked at draft policies that would allow a business or organization to secure naming rights of a facility for a donation that is large enough.
The council also discussed possible regulations for advertising on the new Castle Field, to help offset both capital and ongoing operation costs.
Recreation Supervisor Lisa LaCasse has researched similar policies in other cities to help draft regulations that would be specific to Anoka.
“We used a lot of the information that was consistent (between cities) and that makes sense for the situations we have here in Anoka,” said LaCasse.
The council will officially review proposed policies at a future council meeting.
Several councilmembers encouraged a liberal policy that could easily attract fund-raising dollars. But they also want the council to have any final say on naming rights to a facility.
Advertising on city property is also a topic that has been taken up by the city’s Parks and Recreation Advisory Board.
Boardmember Mary Blankenship told the council the park board is interested in seeing an approach that would be less disruptive in city parks.
“This might be our chance to do something that is less visually polluting,” Blankenship told the council. She did suggest the city might want to consider a digital readerboard for advertising, rather than the traditional poster boards that are often seen at community ball parks.
Mandy Moran Froemming is at firstname.lastname@example.org