After budget changes prompted by rising costs, a $7 million makeover of Coon Rapids’ Sand Creek Park is about to get rolling, with planners expected to pick a construction company this month and work to begin in May.
The project is a central part of a parks-system overhaul being funded by a $17.6 million bond levy that city voters approved in November 2013.
It will include a major rework of the Sand Creek layout, which will allow for more parking space. Included in the base bid are a new hockey rink, an open skate rink, six softball fields, two football/lacrosse fields, a skate park and a shelter for concessions, among other features.
The 2013 bond levy called for $5.7 million for the Sand Creek overhaul, but the initial cost projection was based on a 2012 estimate, and an updated projection earlier this year came in at $8.9 million, or $3.2 million over budget.
Coon Rapids Public Works Director Tim Himmer said much of the overage was due to rising construction costs throughout the state, which he said have increased by 30 percent since the original 2012 proposal.
Across the metro area, an abundance of construction projects and rising material costs have prompted a number of cities to delay improvement projects or to rethink their plans.
In Coon Rapids, to deal with the Sand Creek situation, planners cut some amenities from the budget. Among them were planned bocce ball courts, a gravity sanitary sewer and a second hockey rink.
Various items are now listed as alternate options and will be cut or kept when the city receives final bids, including additional parking, a tennis court, a half basketball court and a gazebo.
“We’re bidding everything; then we’ll decide what will be cut based on direction from the council,” said Himmer.
The city was accepting bids until Tuesday, April 14, and they will be considered at the April 21 City Council meeting.
Mayor Jerry Koch said that “people have actually been quite reasonable about [the project being over budget]. Unfortunately, the market has changed for construction — things have gone up since we started this project.”
After the revision, the project budget has a base of about $7 million, with a $750,000 alternate option plan.
To supplement the park levy money, planners will dip into other city funds, including the utility enterprise fund and the facilities construction fund, which can be used for infrastructure projects like the park’s sewer system.
Himmer said dealing with widely used and aging parks is difficult since the city’s development has slowed. Coon Rapids doesn’t have park funds coming in as it once did when development was booming, which is why the project was financed through a referendum, he said.
Mayor Koch said places like Sand Creek Park are vital to the city, helping set it apart from other local communities.
“What we really wanted to do was maintain the integrity of this as a go-to premier athletic complex,” he said. “People are going to be traveling here from other areas. We want people to see that parks are important to Coon Rapids and that families are important to Coon Rapids.”
While construction is likely to begin in May, there won’t be programming in the park until spring 2017.
Taylor Nachtigal is a University of Minnesota journalism student on assignment at the Star Tribune.