The Spring Lake Park School District has permission from the Blaine City Council to build a new preK through fourth-grade elementary school at the National Sports Center.
In the hours before the April 20 meeting, the National Sports Center Foundation paid the full $185,000 assessment to the city of Blaine owed for the reconstruction of Davenport Street that other neighboring businesses had already been making payments on.
The council had said the assessment needed to be paid before it would approve the new school. The state of Minnesota’s Minnesota Amateur Sports Commission owns the land, but was unable to get any money from the Legislature to pay the assessment, so the non-profit NSC Foundation that operates the facilities made the payment.
With this issue settled, the council approved the new school on a 6-1 vote. The land sale was set to close on April 25 and School District 16 Superintendent Jeff Ronneberg said groundbreaking would happen on May 21. It will open at the beginning of the 2018-2019 school year.
The 96,000-square-foot school will be on an 11-acre site on the southeast corner of 105th Avenue and Davenport Street, just north of the Velodrome and across the street from the National Market Center that includes Kohl’s and Menard’s.
The district looked at three Blaine sites for a new elementary school with the other two being bank-owned property near the intersection of Lexington and 109th avenues and land owned by the Metropolitan Airports Commission near 85th Avenue and Highway 10.
The cost to buy 11 acres from the Minnesota Sports Commission, construct a new parking lot and to complete soil remediation will total about $1.4 million. The land cost is $346,000 of that amount.
The NSC site ended up being $3 million less expensive than the other two options, according to the school district. And instead of needing to construct athletic fields, the new elementary school will have the benefit of being able to lease fields from the National Sports Center.
“It’s a great example of partnership between multiple public entities that our citizens really want to see and doesn’t happen often enough,” Ronneberg said after the council vote of approval.
The lone dissent vote was Council Member Wes Hovland, whose is concerned about adding school bus and vehicle traffic to Davenport Street and 105th Avenue.
“I recognize the need for the school, but I unfortunately can’t justify the location,” he said.
Hovland was not alone in his concerns, but other council members chose to vote in favor of the school now and deal with the consequences later.
Council Member Dick Swanson doesn’t think this is the best location for a school, but he understands this site is the best option for the district.
“There will be major problems on Davenport,” he said, adding that he hopes that the city, school district and the National Sports Center can work together to resolve the issues when they come up.
“By doing this tonight, we’re all contributing to the fact that those problems are going to happen and we’re all going to have to be willing to work on solving those problems when they do happen,” Swanson said. “Hopefully there won’t be too many school buses or staff members being rammed into by commuters when the project happens.”
Council Member Julie Jeppson is a strong supporter of the location.
“As a parent in the Spring Lake Park School District, I think this is going to be hugely advantageous for the school district,” she said.
She said “it is not an ideal location,” but believes this will lead to greater scrutiny that will lead to concerns being addressed. And with the city wanting to reconstruct 105th Avenue in the near future, she said the Blaine can now account for a new elementary school as it tries to design and build the best road possible.
Council Member Andrew Garvais is excited about this location because students will be able to “get out and be active.” But he hopes that whenever the Velodrome goes away, the National Sports Center looks at improving traffic flow on the property.
The NSC is hosting an open house to discuss future vision for the campus at 6 p.m. on May 2 in the Grand Hall inside the Welcome Center, 1750 105th Ave. NE, Blaine.
“I’m not fond of this site for a school. Typically I think a school should be in a residential area where you have a good place for kids to walk,” Council Member Dave Clark said. “On the other hand, I will trust the judgment of the Spring Lake Park School Board because they are closer to it than anybody.”