NORTH MANKATO — After all the soccer matches and softball tournaments are done at Caswell Park this fall, constructions crews will move in to begin major renovations to the original 35-year-old softball complex as well as the newer Caswell North soccer complex.

The North Mankato City Council Monday night approved setting up the financing package to move ahead with $5 million in upgrades to the park and to finalize design plans for an indoor recreation facility.

They plan to begin the work in early September — after the Labor Day weekend and the last tournaments of the year — and have the work done by winter.

The funding will come from $2.3 million in local sales tax funds, a $2 million grant awarded by the state last year, and $700,000 donated by local softball and soccer user groups.

Approving a dedicated fund for the project will allow the state to release the $2 million grant. The move also allows city staff to work with engineering and design firms and let bids for the work so it can get started after Labor Day.

About $2.65 million of work will be done on the softball complex, including replacing all fencing and backstops, shading for spectators, lighting upgrades, an expansion of the size of two fields, six new scoreboards, video-streaming upgrades, additional spectator seating and expansions and upgrades to the concession stand and restrooms, including making them ADA compliant.

City staff said expanding a couple of the fields will make them “championship” fields that will draw more large tournaments.

The Caswell North soccer fields will see $1.8 million in work. The sod will be removed from one of the existing soccer fields and used to build a new championship field. The existing championship field will then get artificial turf.

Some of the fields also will get upgraded, brighter lighting.

Finally, $500,000 will be used to develop detailed engineering and architect plans for a hoped-for indoor recreation facility that would be built at the Caswell complex.

Dehen has said having “shovel ready” plans will help the city as it again seeks bonding money for the project from the Legislature and governor.

In 2016 voters approved extending the local sales tax with money targeted at city parks, trails, the library and Caswell.

The city has in recent years completed most of the development of the newer Benson Park on the city’s northern edge, created a native prairie and new lookout at Bluff Park, as well as doing other trail and park work.

In 2019 the city submitted a bonding request to the state for $10.5 million for the Caswell upgrades and a new indoor fieldhouse on city-owned property adjacent to Caswell Park.

The city argued that a new fieldhouse at Caswell Park represents an economic development opportunity and a way to improve the site as a regional destination. But in the end, North Mankato was awarded the $2 million to go toward upgrades to the existing facility. The city will try again for state bonding money for the indoor facility.

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