Willmar City Council to consider athletic fields and rec and event center

Shelby Lindrud, West Central Tribune, Willmar, Minn.
·3 min read

Mar. 15—WILLMAR — Plans for the Invest in Willmar local option sales tax projects for the recreation and event center, as well as the athletic fields, both to be constructed at the Willmar Civic Center, will be considered by the Willmar City Council during Monday's meeting, March 15.

This comes following the council's Public Works and Public Safety Committee moving the plans forward at its meeting last Thursday. The committee tabled those projects two weeks earlier, due to council members wanting additional information on operational costs and the pending agreements with Willmar Public Schools around the fields.

In the motions to move the plans forward, the committee did not make a recommendation to the council to approve the projects. Instead they moved the information forward so the entire council could do a final review and consider whether to approve the plans and put the project out for bids.

"You are not making a decision that is permanent tonight," said City Administrator Brian Gramentz.

Rob Baumgarn, Willmar Parks and Recreation Director, gave a presentation Thursday on estimated operational costs for the proposed recreation/event center and athletic fields, along with the estimated operational costs of the improvements at Robbins Island Regional Park and Swansson Field. The presentation also showed possible revenue the city could gain from the new projects and improvements.

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

The rec and event center could cost the city an additional $185,000 to $212,000 a year to operate, depending on how the city staffs the center, according to the presentation. The city could also make an estimated $144,000 in revenue each year from the center.

"This is all based off of recreation programming," Baumgarn said.

This means if larger conventions and events want to rent the facility it could bring in even more revenue.

"There are opportunities out there, we are just going to have to market it," Baumgarn said.

If the covered ice rink is constructed, both the expenses and revenue would increase.

The council will also consider the land transfer and athletic field use agreements between the city and Willmar Public Schools. The school district will be transferring ownership of 10 acres of land on the north side of the Willmar Civic Center to the city, where portions of the two synthetic turf fields will be constructed.

The field use agreement lays out who can use the athletics fields when, which include the two synthetic turf fields and the softball complex. The agreement states the school district will be granted priority use of the fields during days school is in session along with all weekdays of the fall and spring sports seasons. The city will be responsible for all maintenance of the new athletic fields and any improvements made to the facilities. The school district can make improvements with the city's permission and approval.

What happens to the sales tax projects now sits in the hands of the City Council.

"The next council meeting they are going to get all the info dumped on the table," said Councilor Andrew Plowman. "And then we will have that gigantic discussion. It needs to happen."

Invest in Willmar Projects City Operational Costs Presentation by West Central Tribune on Scribd