Athletic fields

Willmar City Council to Consider Sports Fields, Recreation and Events Center

It comes after the council’s public works and public safety committee pushed the plans forward at its meeting last Thursday. The committee tabled these projects two weeks earlier, as board members wanted additional information on operational costs and current agreements with Willmar Public Schools around the fields.

In motions to move the plans forward, the committee did not recommend that council approve the plans. Instead, they put the information forward so the whole board could do a final review and determine whether to approve the plans and go out to tender.

“You are not making a final decision tonight,” said city administrator Brian Gramentz.

Rob Baumgarn, Director of Parks and Recreation at Willmar, gave a presentation Thursday on the estimated operating costs of the proposed recreation / event center and sports fields, as well as the estimated operating costs of improvements to Robbins Regional Park Island and Swansson Field. The presentation also showed the possible revenues the city could derive from new projects and improvements.

“This is what we asked for,” said Councilor Audrey Nelsen. “It gives us additional tools as we prioritize what we can afford to do.”

The recreation and events center could cost the city an additional $ 185,000 to $ 212,000 per year, depending on how the city runs the center, according to the presentation. The city could also generate estimated revenues of $ 144,000 each year from the center.

“It’s all based on recreation programs,” Baumgarn said.

This means that if larger conventions and events wish to rent the facility, it could generate even more revenue.

“There are opportunities out there, we’re just going to have to market them,” Baumgarn said.

If the indoor ice rink is built, the expenses and revenues would increase.

The council will also review the land transfer and sports field use agreements between the city and the Willmar Public Schools. The school district will transfer ownership of 10 acres of land on the north side of the Willmar Civic Center to the city, where portions of the two artificial turf pitches will be built.

The land use agreement specifies who can use the athletic fields at what time, which includes the two artificial turf fields and the softball complex. The agreement states that the school district will be granted priority use of the land during the days the school is in session as well as all weekdays during the fall and spring sports seasons. The City will be responsible for all maintenance of the new sports fields and any improvements to the facilities. The school district may make improvements with the permission and approval of the city.

What happens to sales tax projects is now in the hands of city council.

“The next council meeting, they’re going to put all the information on the table,” Councilor Andrew Plowman said. “And then we’ll have this gigantic discussion. It has to happen.”


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