NORTH MANKATO — The first phase of a long-awaited 10-field soccer complex in upper North Mankato was approved by the city council Monday night despite bids coming in higher than expected. The first games are expected to be played in 2014.
The new facility, called the Caswell North Soccer Complex, was expected to cost a combined $518,000 to construct — not counting the donation by Mankato Area Public Schools of land adjacent to a planned new elementary school at Lor Ray and Carlson drives. When bids for site work, drainage systems and electrical/irrigation systems were received last month, the low bids totaled $580,000.
North Mankato interim City Administrator Mike Fischer said nearly $50,0000 could be trimmed from the cost by eliminating some bleachers (and the concrete below them) and having city crews do some of the labor for erosion control, seeding and placement of drainage rocks. That left the project about $13,000 over the estimate, and the city council approved the contracts with Ulrich Acres of Good Thunder, Dirt Merchant of Mankato and GreenCare of Mankato.
Future phases of construction — adding concessions and rest room buildings and additional parking — will bring the total cost to $919,000. City costs are being financed by a half-percent local sales tax approved by voters in 2006 for improvements to parks, the library, roads and the aging downtown business district.
The soccer facility, not far from the existing Caswell Park softball complex, will include a “premier field” that is expected to serve as the home field for the Mankato West Scarlets, two other regulation-size fields, three small pitches for the youngest players and four mid-sized fields.
The city, the school district and the Mankato United Soccer Club have been planning the complex ever since the school district purchased land for a future elementary school north of Howard Drive. Extra land was acquired by the school district with North Mankato agreeing to construct and maintain the fields and the soccer club donating $150,000 for construction, plus annual contributions to help cover operating expenses.
The council also tentatively decided Monday night to donate a playground to the facility, pending approval by the school district.
The $25,000 in plastic playground equipment was purchased earlier this year for the southwest corner of nearby Benson Park — a project that was abandoned after being harshly criticized by an advisory committee that developed the natural-park master plan for Benson.
Putting the equipment at the soccer complex will provide a neighborhood playground as soon as this year while honoring the master plan for Benson, said Mayor Mark Dehen.
The idea of moving the plastic playground to the soccer complex was originally proposed by Councilman Bill Schindle, saying it would give the bored younger siblings of soccer players something to do.