Andover commissioners consider future park amenities

Ideas for what could be included in a new 39-acre Andover city park are starting to be discussed.

The city of Andover bought property on the northeast corner of 161st Avenue and Tulip Street earlier this summer from Legacy Christian Academy with the goal of putting in new fields that youth football, lacrosse and soccer teams could share.

Although the Andover Park and Recreation Commission at a Nov. 29 workshop stated that the first goals are irrigated natural grass fields with lights and adequate parking, it wants this park to be more than an athletic complex.

“This could be the nicest park in this city easily, so we really have a good opportunity here,” said commission chairperson Ted Butler.

The city notified eight consultants that it needed assistance in developing the master plan and first phase for this new city park.

Seven companies responded and city staff recommended that the commission interview Anderson-Johnson Associates, WSB and Associates and SRF Consultants.

Todd Haas, assistant director of public works, said the council will hire the consultant at its Dec. 18 meeting and the chosen company will come to the Dec. 28 commission meeting to discuss the master plan.

To get an early start, the commissioners are already thinking of how to draw residents not involved with youth athletics into the park.

Preserving as much of the site as possible around the fields was a point often raised by multiple commissioners.

“We’re not talking about more hockey rinks and basketball courts,” Haas said in summarizing the commission’s overall opinion, although a small playground where young kids could play while their older siblings compete was an idea brought up. There is park equipment just across 161st Avenue from this site, which perhaps could be moved.

Commissioner Andrew Melberg would love to see a pond with rose gardens around it. This would be a great alternative location for the Andover RC (Radio Controlled) Boat Club that has been meeting at the pond by Target.

Haas said there is a good opportunity for open water on the west side of the property where soils could be excavated and used for grading other areas of the site. The soils may not be good enough for the fields, but could be used in other green spaces, he said.

Melberg and Commissioner Tony Kowalewski want to see bird houses throughout the site.

Kowalewski, a teacher at Andover High School, has been working with students on building bluebird houses.

Kowalewski wants as much wetland to be untouched as possible so that science classes at the school have another site to learn from, he said.

City Administrator Jim Dickinson said between 30 and 32 acres of the site are upland that can be built on and the remaining acreage is wetland.

Commission vice-chairperson Jim Lindahl wants to look at prairie restoration and rain gardens.

According to Haas, there are various conservation grants, but said that rain gardens are expensive to maintain and would likely require volunteer labor.

There is a good hill on the west side of the property that would be good for sledding, he said.

Another idea is to have a trail run through the property, which has some heavily wooded areas. The commission does not want more pavement, however. It wants to see cross country skiers and snowshoers utilizing a natural trail during the winter.

Haas said it cannot be a grass trail because that would not meet Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) requirements, but there are other softer materials that could be used.

Butler pictured entering the site off 161st Avenue and going down a long driveway entrance through the forest and by some small practice fields before parking in a lot next to the fields in the center of the property. He would like to avoid having a parking lot next to 161st Avenue as much as possible just to keep a more rural appearance for those driving by.

Sean Beggin from the North Metro Soccer Association, the only person from any of the sports associations at the Nov. 29 meeting, said Ham Lake Park is a good example of what Butler is envisioning.

Commissioner Shaun Van Vark is impressed with Ham Lake Park’s frisbee golf course and would love to see a course at this new city park.

With homes near the park, the commission is very mindful of light pollution concerns that could come up, so it wants the consultant and city staff to take a hard look at what technology is available. Begin recalled an athletic complex in St. Michael where the fields were brightly lit, but it was pitch-black just several feet off the field.

The commission thinks all the fields should be natural grass. The task force of park and recreation commissioners, city councilmembers and youth sports association representatives discussed the idea, but there was never any overwhelming support for it.

Butler wanted a consultant to tell the city how much an artificial turf field could cost, but the cheapest fee for the artificial turf design was a not to exceed amount of $4,850 from WSB, which had the second lowest overall bid at $67,226.

Anderson-Johnson had the lowest overall project consultant bid of $65,900, but $18,500 of that was for the artificial turf design.

SRF Consultants overall bid was $88,744 and $7,048 of that was for the turf design.

According to Butler, the best future sites for an artificial turf field would be Sunshine Park or by the city hall and public works building.

The city is budgeting $800,000 for the first phase of this park development. Not having artificial turf fields allows the city to develop more natural grass fields and the other amenities the park commissioners discussed.

Lee Brezinka, assistant finance director, estimated it could cost $350,000 to put in one full-size grass field with lights while a full-size artificial turf field with lights could cost about $1 million.

A concession stand building with restrooms along with picnic shelters are other ideas the commission brought up, but that may not happen in the first phase.

Haas said it is difficult to estimate a budget for a building like this because donated materials and volunteer labor can really cut down the price.

Brezinka previously reported after its completion in early 2010 that the Andover Station North baseball concession stand building cost $275,875 to build when accounting for building materials and contracted labor. The Andover Baseball Association contributed $115,000 and the city covered $160,875. These dollar figures do not account for city staff time or volunteer hours, Brezinka said.

Eric Hagen is at [email protected]