Another try for second phase of Anoka’s Castle Field

Once again Anoka will go out for bids on the second phase of construction at Castle Field.

In August, the city received only one bid to construct the building under the bleachers that will house the concession, restroom and storage, as well as building an entrance monument and trash enclosures.

That bid came in more than 20 percent above the engineer’s estimate.

“Given that we had one bid and it was 21 percent higher on Aug. 19 the city council did officially reject the one bid,” said Greg Lee, Anoka’s public services director and city engineer.

Staff brought back a proposal to rebid the project, which was estimated to cost $427,130.

“Hopefully the time of the year will give us more favorable bids,” Lee said.

The deadline to submit the bids the second time around will be Jan. 23. The council will consider awarding a construction contract Feb. 3.

“To make it as appealing to a construction contractor as possible, the city will allow the entire 2014 construction season to complete the project,” Lee said.

If the contractor starts work early in the season, crews will have to accommodate both the baseball schedule and special events planned for Castle Field.

This includes a May 10 St. Paul Saints game.

Castle Field opened in July with the completion of the ball field, bleachers and other basics that allow for games to be played.

Lee said the third phase of construction, which would include a plaza area adjacent to the ball field, is planned for 2015.

Northwoods League update

For more than a year numerous discussions had been taking place between city staff and other Castle Field representatives with a potential ownership group of a Northwoods League team about having the team play out of Anoka.

The Northwoods League is a summer baseball league comprising teams of the top college players from across the United States and North America.

Any improvements to Castle Field would have to be expanded to accommodate 1,500 to 2,000 fans per game if a Northwoods League team played out of Castle Field.

Just over a month ago an Anoka delegation met with Northwoods League officials about the future of a local team, according to City Manager Tim Cruikshank.

The ownership group with whom the city had previously been working is no longer looking at Anoka as a home field. But the city would still like to see Castle Field marketed as a potential site for the Northwoods League.

A major sticking point is parking available for the size to the crowd.

To make it work on a regular basis, the city would likely have to enter into some kind of a lease agreement with the Anoka-Hennepin School District to use parking at the nearby Anoka High School, Cruikshank said.

But school district officials and staff are concerned about adding alcohol into the mix at Castle Field.

School Board Chairman Tom Heidemann said the district does not support alcohol consumption at the field, located on land once owned by the school district and adjacent to the Anoka High School campus.

“There has been a long tradition of creating a really nice community use at Castle Field for the last 50 years,” Heidemann said. “To move from that community use to something that is for profit where alcohol sales are at the heart of how money is made is not something we support.”

Heidemann said it isn’t a position the district will waver on.

A parking agreement would require Northwoods League fans to co-mingle with student athletes using nearby playing and practice fields –something Heidemann says the board does not support if alcohol is allowed at Castle Field.

Cruikshank said alcohol consumption would not be allowed on school district property and there would be extra enforcement to keep tailgating to designated areas.

The property where Castle Field is located was donated to the city by the school district. As part of the land use agreement, the city agreed to abide by the Minnesota State High School League’s advertising regulations.

The league regulates advertising at state tournaments to prohibit the promotion of alcohol, tobacco or gambling. But outside of those championship events, advertising is regulated by individual school districts, not the state high school league, according to John Millea, media specialist for the Minnesota State High School League.

According to Anoka-Hennepin School District’s own policy, “School district communications (central office and/or buildings), including publications such as programs and calendars, may accept and publish paid advertising. In no instance shall advertising or advertising images for alcohol, tobacco, drugs, drug paraphernalia, weapons, or obscene, pornographic or illegal materials be accepted.”

But the property is now under the ownership of the city of Anoka.

Cruikshank said no advertisements for alcohol or tobacco would be present at Castle Field when high school players are using the field.

The city has already approved a permit for the Anoka Lions Club to sell 3.2 beer at the Saints exhibition game in May. For that game, the city believes there will be enough parking on city-owned property or nearby streets to accommodate the crowd.

“One of the hopeful outcomes of the May 10 event to show everyone this can be done and it can be done in a very positive way and a controlled way,” Cruikshank said. “We want to work with the school district in respect to the concerns they have. We believe there’s a win-win here for all of us and we can accommodate for their concerns.”

Mandy Moran Froemming is at editor.anokaunion@ecm-inc.com

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