The Blaine City Council is re-evaluating the scope of the 38-acre Lexington Athletic Complex park in light of a recent $3.8 million cost estimate compared with last year’s estimate of $2.18 million.
The park building estimate has increased from $389,000 to $775,700, according to Robert Therres, Blaine’s public services manager. The difference of $386,700 is the increase between the first estimate done last year by the SRF Consulting Group and the most recent estimate done by Carlson-McCain, which was hired to do the design work on the park.
“I love it. I just don’t know whether it’s something we can afford to do,” Mayor Tom Ryan said of the park building.
Other councilmembers voiced support for the park building, which resembles the nearby Finn Farm barn. City Manager Clark Arneson said this barn is on private property and will be demolished when the housing development goes in.
“It reflects a part of the city,” Councilmember Wes Hovland said of the park building resembling a barn.
Councilmember Kathy Kolb also loves how the playground design reflects the farm theme. The two slides look like a barn and a tractor and instead of a jungle gym, the kids can climb something that looks like stacked hay bales. The play area is now estimated to cost $134,177 and would include the playground, benches, bike rack, picnic tables and the concrete under the picnic shelter and for the walking paths.
Therres said this park is a major piece on the east side of the community and the city wanted the architectural aesthetics to be on the same level as the popular Lakeside Commons Park. The original concept of the park building at this Lexington Athletic Complex was to have a structure similar to the blue concrete building at the Blaine Baseball Complex.
Besides the upgraded appearance of the building, more space was added to accommodate meeting rooms and a warming house area, Therres said.
The city is looking at having a community skating rink during the winter, he said.
Councilmember Russ Herbst agreed with the mayor that people probably will question the cost of the park building but said it will really enhance the area around it.
Councilmember Dave Clark said it would have been easier to do this six years ago and he had a similar reaction to Ryan.
Jerome Krieger, program supervisor with the parks department, said all warming houses in Blaine are west of Highway 65, and he gets calls from residents in The Lakes development all the time from asking where the nearest warming house is. He said the park building could be used for storing some public works equipment and youth sports association gear.
The rest of the park
The city of Blaine purchased 38.6 acres at the corner of 120th and Lexington avenues in July 2012 for the future Lexington Athletic Complex. The purchase price was $2.2 million, but the city only had to pay Paxmar Development $800,000 at closing, according to Planning and Community Development Director Bryan Schafer.
Paxmar Development will receive $1.4 million in park dedication fee and water access charge credits for its adjacent housing developments. The developer in 2011 purchased 180 acres of the Finn Farm site east of Lexington Avenue and south of Main Street.
Jim Kappelhoff, who is retiring at the end of February as Blaine’s park and recreation director, has said the Lexington Athletic Complex would be Blaine’s last, large multi-use recreational area.
The concept is to construct two baseball/softball fields, four multi-use fields for soccer, lacrosse and football, a full basketball court, three tennis courts, a playground area and a park building.
The ball fields, two of the multi-use fields and all three tennis courts are proposed to have lights.
The city requested proposals from companies to design the park and come up with construction estimates. Five companies submitted bids with Carlson-McCain having the lowest bid at $162,750. SRF Consulting’s bid of $189,855 came in third.
The council did question the necessity of having lights for the tennis courts.
Krieger responded that Blaine does not have lit tennis courts and other cities he has talked to have lighted tennis courts.
Clark wondered if they could stage the whole Lexington Athletic Complex over multiple years to spread out the costs.
Herbst said they would need to get the lights in before the area around the park develops so people are aware of what will be there.
Therres said they would want to grade the whole site at once, but said staff has discussed waiting a year or two on the playground equipment or the basketball court or tennis courts until more homes are developed and there is a demand for the equipment.
“One of the things this park does besides being the athletic complex is it serves as the neighborhood park for all these homes east of Lexington (Avenue),” Therres said.
Finance Director Joe Huss said they could delay portions of the project, but there would still be a funding problem.
Councilmember Dick Swanson wants to see potential funding sources for the different aspects of the project. For example, the council wondered if it could use some of the money the city gets from the Minnesota Department of Transportation for Municipal State Aid Streets for the potential right-turn lane from Lexington Avenue or covering the sanitary sewer and water main costs with the city’s utility fund. These costs were not a part of SRF’s estimate last year.
Eric Hagen is at firstname.lastname@example.org