For boosters of youth sports, the potential upgrades proposed in Mankato’s updated parks master plan are likely to bring a smile. For virtually anyone in the region, the attached price tags might bring a different expression.
The plan doesn’t call for building everything that’s mentioned in the plan, but it notes the high demand for more ice sheets, more ball fields, more swimming lanes, not to mention the need for a new roof at the curling club, a longstanding desire for a water park and hundreds of thousands of dollars in basic fix-ups at the municipal swimming pool.
Here are the accompanying prices, which the plan clearly states are well beyond what the city can finance alone: refurbish Tourtellotte Pool, $750,000; minimum repairs to the Caledonia Curling Club, $600,000; basic upgrades to Franklin Rogers Park, $1.1 million; a new sheet of ice for hockey/skating, $3 million; a new indoor pool/outdoor water park, $10.4 million ... .
City Manager Pat Hentges, who will be presenting the parks plan Monday to the City Council, said it’s inevitable the council will have to pare down the list, find some partners to help with the financing and at least consider a new funding source for the growing list of needed parks improvements in a growing community.
“We’ve got to resolve the funding strategy,” Hentges said.
All Seasons Arena, the two-sheet indoor ice facility near Minnesota State University, is extremely busy and virtually impossible to expand because there’s no vacant space adjacent to it. The parks plan notes a pair of options for addressing the ice shortage.
The Caledonia Curling Club, just west of Madison East Center, needs a new roof within five years, better ventilated locker rooms, improved insulation, heating upgrades and an improved dehumidification system. Those items total $600,000, but a 2012 study suggested the facility could be expanded to include an adjacent ice arena with shared mechanical equipment for $5.3 million to $6.3 million.
A basic stand-alone indoor ice sheet could be built for $3 million, according to the same study.
Simply keeping the Tourtellotte Park pool operating as is will cost $750,000 for new filter and heating systems, replacement of part of the pool deck and other minimal repairs. The outdoor pool is home to competitive youth swimming as well as recreational swimming.
One alternative for meeting the demand for more recreational water facilities would be to add a second leisure pool to the Tourtellotte pool — one with a zero-depth entry and water play features, along with a “lazy river” current for tube floating, a sun deck, a plunge pool and more. Add in a renovated bathhouse and more parking at Tourtellotte, and the estimated cost is just over $4.5 million.
Another option is construction of a new indoor eight-lane lap pool with a separate diving well and an adjacent outdoor leisure pool complex. The total cost is estimated at $10.4 million, and the plan suggests partnerships would be necessary with the school district, MSU, the YMCA and other interested organizations.
Like other sports facilities, Mankato’s ball fields need some essential maintenance. At the region’s primary baseball field, it’s nearly $1.1 million worth.
Franklin Rogers Park needs better drainage, lowered dugouts, added seating, restrooms accessible for people with disabilities and a new concessions stand, according to the updated parks report.
“In order to continue attracting and hosting NCAA playoffs and Northwoods League Baseball, the city needs to invest in updating the playing fields so it’s safe, playable and conducive to top-level baseball,” the report states.
While 53-year-old Franklin Rogers is the granddaddy of local baseball fields, the newest baseball complex is also in line for a potential additional investment. Community Athletic Fields, the youth baseball complex by Rosa Parks Elementary, should be considered for an expansion with three more T-ball/Little League fields added, along with lights on two of the fields, a playground for toddlers, a parking lot and some other upgrades, the report recommends. The total cost of the improvements is roughly $800,000.
With the completion of the Community Athletic Fields, the report recommends considering about $850,000 in upgrades to Thomas Park east of East High School to make it exclusively a softball complex. The bulk of the money ($400,000) would be for three new softball fields and a new restroom/concessions building ($350,000).
In all cases, youth sports groups should participate in fundraising for the construction of the facilities and user fees should cover much of the operational costs, according to the report.
With all the wants and needs included in the 56-page plan, which is set for a public hearing and final adoption Feb. 24, there are also some new twists for the council to consider when it comes to community recreation and sports facilities. Mankato Area Public Schools leaders are searching for a site for a new $50 million middle school to be constructed by August 2016. And the Blue Earth County Fair Board is planning to move its fairgrounds from Garden City to the edge of Mankato.
Either or both of the new facilities could be pared with some of the proposed sports facilities, allowing shared parking and other infrastructure.
“That does make sense,” Hentges said. “And there’s some great models around us.”