Multi-purpose facility proposed in Coon Rapids

Ted Schmolke, president of the Coon Rapids Athletic Association (CRAA), has a vision to construct a multi-use facility adjacent to the Coon Rapids Ice Center.

Last week, Schmolke presented his concept, complete with preliminary site plan, floor plan drawings and preliminary revenue projections, to the Coon Rapids City Council at a work session.

While the proposed facility would have five basketball courts with a center concession/storage area, it would also have a stage, a mezzanine area for spectator viewing, a walking track, meeting rooms and a fitness center.

According to Schmolke, his concept is not a basketball fieldhouse, but a multi-purpose building that can have any number of uses.

“That’s what makes it so exciting,” Schmolke said.

The facility that Schmolke envisions can be used year-round by various groups – all-day summer programming for preschool, school age and adults/seniors, for example, he said.

Other uses could include indoor soccer, volleyball and adaptive sports, Schmolke said.

And with a stage and acoustic walls separating areas of the building, the facility could host concerts, dance shows, pageants and other activities at the same time basketball games are being played, according to Schmolke.

As presented to the council, the building would be 78,000 square feet with 65,900 square feet on the main floor and 13,000 square feet on the second floor.

Schmolke’s concept is that it would be a city-owned building with the city selling revenue bonds to pay the construction cost, he said.

Based on the preliminary drawings that Amcon Construction prepared for Schmolke, city staff estimates that the cost to construct the building would be in the range of $10 million to $12 million, according to Steve Gatlin, city community services director.

That’s about double the $5 million to $6 million that Schmolke and Todd Christopherson from Amcon presented to the council at the work session, said Mayor Tim Howe.

Schmolke also provided the council with preliminary revenue projections from court rental fees and revenue for other activities at the facility as well as membership fees for a fitness center, Gatlin said.

Schmolke’s revenue projections as presented to the council, total $728,400 a year.

In Schmolke’s view, the revenues produced by the facility would be sufficient to pay off the debt on the bonds without impacting the property tax levy, he said.

In addition, Schmolke said that operations and maintenance of the building, which would not cost as much as the ice center, could be handled by existing staff and also be covered by revenues.

According to Schmolke, it was the lack of adequate facilities for the CRAA basketball program that provided the impetus for his proposal.

Right now, CRAA boys’ and girls’ teams play only half a season, the girls before Christmas and the boys after, compressing 14 games into less than two months, Schmolke said.

That means a lot of Saturday games, sometimes two a day, and at times Sunday games, he said.

“With the new facility we will be able to play on weekdays and not on weekends and parents will love that,” Schmolke said.

“And we will be able to give the boys and girls a full season and provide parents a much better bang for the bucks they pay for CRAA basketball.”

All CRAA basketball games take place in school gyms, so do practices and some of the elementary school gyms are not adequate to accommodate practice sessions for older teams, he said.

According to Schmolke, the CRAA currently has 75 boys’ house teams and 45 girls’ house teams as well as 10 boys’ and girls’ traveling teams each.

With the new building, he believes the city would be able to attract basketball programs from other communities, who are even more strapped for space than Coon Rapids, as well as AAU programs, Schmolke said.

While the ice center was the first phase of the proposed community center on the property at Coon Rapids and Crooked Lake boulevards, Schmolke sees the multi-purpose facility as the second phase, he said.

“We are ready to go now; the other phases, like the county library, are not,” said Schmolke, who was a member of the task force that the council created to work on the community center project.

With council support, this facility can be completed in two years, he said. “I would like it to be open in time for the 2013-2014 basketball season,” said Schmolke, who works in the construction industry.

And Schmolke was encouraged by the response of the council at the meeting, he said.

According to Gatlin, the proposed facility does not fit within the original planned footprint for the proposed community center.

If the project was to move forward, there would have to be a detailed review of the elements of a future community center to determine how Schmolke’s proposal would fit into the overall plan, Gatlin said.

City Manager Matt Fulton said the proposal needed to be part of the phased construction of the proposed community center, along with a county library branch and partnerships with Anoka-Ramsey Community College, School District 11 and others.

According to Howe, the council will look at Schmolke’s proposal, which he called a “fascinating design for a multi-purpose building” as part of future discussions on the community center and set priorities.

And because of the discrepancy in the estimated cost between staff and Schmolke/Amcon, the council has asked staff to work on the numbers.

Dan Klinkhammer, executive director of Minnesota Youth Athletic Services, which is headquartered in Spring Lake Park, and runs youth sports programs statewide, notably basketball and baseball, spoke to the council on behalf of Schmolke’s proposal.

There is a dearth of basketball facilities in the north area and he believes that the facility proposed by Schmolke would be filled year-round, Klinkhammer said. “We run 200 events a year and basketball is one of the largest programs,” he said.

Indeed, Klinkhammer said basketball is a year-round sport with leagues and tournaments; August is the only month where there are no basketball events.

New basketball facilities, which are air conditioned – important for spring and summer events – have been built in the west, south and eastern suburbs, not in the north, he said.

This past weekend MYAS hosted an Upper Midwest basketball tournament at facilities in Prior Lake and Farmington, drawing 90 teams from seven states, according to Klinkhammer.

Besides basketball, the CRAA also offers youth programs in football, wrestling, lacrosse and softball.

Peter Bodley is at [email protected]