WILLMAR – Plans for the Invest in Willmar Local Sales Tax projects for the Leisure and Events Center and Sports Fields, both to be built at the Willmar Civic Center, will be considered by Willmar City Council during of the meeting on Monday, March 15.
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 plans two weeks early as council members wanted further information on running costs and ongoing agreements with Willmar public schools around the fields.
In the motions to move the plans forward, the committee did not recommend that the board approve the projects. Instead, they have advanced the information so that the full council can make a final review and determine whether to approve the plans and put the project out to tender.
“You’re not making a permanent decision tonight,” City Administrator Brian Gramentz said.
Rob Baumgarn, Willmar Parks and Recreation Director, gave a presentation on Thursday on estimated operating costs for the proposed recreation/event center and sports fields, as well as estimated operating costs for improvements to Robbins Island Regional Park and at Swanson Field. The presentation also showed the potential revenue the city could derive from new projects and improvements.
“That’s what we asked for,” Councilwoman Audrey Nelsen said. “It gives us additional tools as we prioritize what we can afford to do.”
The recreation and events center could cost the city between $185,000 and $212,000 more per year to operate, depending on how the city staffs the center, according to the presentation. The city could also draw about $144,000 in revenue each year from the center.
“It’s all based on recreation programs,” Baumgarn said.
This means that if larger conventions and events want to rent the facility, it could generate even more revenue.
“There are opportunities there, we’re just going to have to market them,” Baumgarn said.
If the indoor rink is built, expenses and revenues will increase.
The council will also review land transfer and sports field use agreements between the city and 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 synthetic turf fields will be built.
The Ground Use Agreement specifies who can use the athletic fields when, which includes the two synthetic turf fields and the softball complex. The agreement stipulates that the school district will be granted priority use of the grounds during days when 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 new sports fields and any upgrades to 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 the 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.”