Andover is seeking advice on how to get the most out of a 39-acre park property that it purchased this summer.
City Engineer and Public Works Director David Berkowitz said consultants will have until Nov. 21 to submit a bid and tell the city how they can help meet the city’s goals on master planning the future city park at the northeast corner of 161st Avenue and Tulip Street.
A task force of two park and recreation commissioners, two councilmembers and a few youth sports association representatives have already told the whole council that there is a shortage of fields for youth football, lacrosse and soccer, but the council is mindful of the site’s potential beyond the fields.
Berkowitz said city staff is very creative, but they do not have the time to put into this project. He believes there were 10 to 12 different layout options for Prairie Knoll Park before the final design was chosen, so it is a time-consuming process to master plan a park.
Councilmember Sheri Bukkila said if people who specialize in designing these type of facilities are able to get more out of the site, it could save the city money in the long run. Perhaps they could get an extra practice field out of the site, she said.
“This site has so much potential,” Councilmember Mike Knight said. The property is next to a major road, is centrally located and has good topography, he said.
Legacy Christian Academy, formerly known as Meadow Creek Christian School, once had plans to build a new school on the property. The private Christian school is now focusing its energy on developing a property on the northwest corner of Highway 10 and Armstrong Boulevard in Ramsey and thus chose to sell this 39-acre property to the city of Andover for $305,000.
The city has budgeted another $800,000 for this project with most money coming from city funds and potentially some from donations. Berkowitz said this could possibly cover three irrigated grass fields with lights and gravel parking lots.
There is already interest in this project. Berkowitz told the council that companies have called with questions and asked if they could visit the site.
Berkowitz has told them it would be unfair for them to walk on the site before other companies get a chance to. All interested consultants will eventually be able to go on the site, however. In fact, Berkowitz said that all consultants that submit a bid must attend a pre-proposal meeting that may take place on the property.
After the council selects a consultant, possibly on Dec. 4, the development of the overall master plan for the site will begin. Although the current budget focuses on the three fields, other amenities such as park shelters or a concession stand and restroom building, could be possible for future phases depending on what can fit on the site.
Park and recreation commission chairperson Ted Butler said the commission is “very excited” about the possibilities this nearly 40-acre site presents and would like a role in planning it rather than just viewing a finished proposal that another group comes up with.
The commission has already toured the site and Butler said he has been out there a couple more times himself.
The council agreed that this would be a good idea for the park and recreation commission to have workshops on this park, and youth sports association representatives could be invited to these meetings to offer input.
“A lot of this started talking about sports facilities, but when you take a look at this site, this is potentially a great park for the city and the area,” Butler said. “I think we want to look at it holistically and not just from the standpoint of, we want ‘X’ number of fields…”
After the consultant develops a preliminary master plan, it will meet with the commission, the council and other stakeholders over a few different meetings to refine the master plan and begin honing in on what could be included in the construction RFP documents for the first phase.
The council is interested in saving as many trees as possible. Knight said there would be good picnic areas under the trees.
A row of trees on the south end could perhaps separate a parking lot and the fields, Berkowitz said.
Mayor Mike Gamache said there are curb cuts off 161st Avenue and Tulip Street that could go to parking lots. He does not want to see good land wasted for too much parking next to the fields or driveways that go to these lots.
If the kids are exercising, parents could walk a little further to the fields and he likes the trail setup that Sunshine Park has, according to Gamache.
Knight said some park complexes have one “master field” that has better seating or perhaps artificial turf while other fields could be grass. According to Berkowitz, this can all be discussed during the master planning and the city could ask for alternative bids for one of the fields to be artificial turf.
This does not mean the council would have to approve this bid; it just gives more information, Berkowitz said.
If the fields are grass, he said stakeholders will have to weigh whether sod or grass seeds should be used. The discussion by the task force was to have fields ready by 2014.
Berkowitz expressed doubt on this time line. Using sod could make this realistic, but he feels seeding would be the best long-term solution because it creates better roots and thus does not need to be watered as much, he said.
The downside of seeding is it takes longer for fields to be ready for athletic teams, Berkowitz said.
Berkowitz would like to engage the neighborhood near the park “sooner rather than later” to make them aware of the plans to develop the site, he said.
Even though there is no true layout, they could find out what the concept is and there could be another meeting when the master plan is more developed, Berkowitz said.
Eric Hagen is at [email protected]