A long debate may finally lead to two new sports domes for Lakeville if voters approve money for athletic fields and other school district amenities this fall.

Officials are looking to build a sports dome at each high school, with money from a successful referendum paying $6 million for two “dome-ready” turf fields. A private group called Dome Partners would pay about $4.5 million to add the domes, which would stay up for winter and come down during warmer weather, as well as manage the facilities.

“It took some time to get there and there were definitely some heated discussions, but I think the end product … was worth going through that process,” said Zach Duckworth, Lakeville school board chairman.

Several years ago, the city began talking about building a sports dome to accommodate all the school and youth league athletic teams that needed a place to play during the winter and early spring months. Parents and their children were traveling to domes in other cities, including Rosemount, West St. Paul, Savage and even Dundas, said Lakeville City Administrator Justin Miller.

“Lakeville has a very strong athletic community … and we’re continuing to grow,” Miller said.

Many residents seemed to agree that a dome was needed. Almost every other aspect of the idea, however, has been a matter of intense debate, including location, how to pay for it and whether one or two facilities should be built.

‘Game-changer for Lakeville’

In late 2018, the city was weighing whether to move forward with a park bond referendum that would include a sports dome. The proposed site was near Hasse Arena, the city-owned ice rink, but the city needed the school district to donate some nearby land to make room for the dome. That spot wasn’t popular with everyone, Miller said.

At that point, a group calling themselves Dome Partners LLC emerged. Josh Kutzler, a parent who had been on two sports facilities task forces, said several people had urged him to get involved.

“[The dome] was something that all the youth groups were asking for,” Kutzler said. “It also became clear to me ... that everyone wanted it but nobody wanted to pay for it.”

After putting together a few investors, Kutzler in January proposed privately building and running a dome. It’s a “golden opportunity,” he said.

“It has a built-in demand — I don’t see youth sports declining — and there’s a limited supply,” he said.

Location was the overriding question, Kutzler said. Dome Partners had suggested several sites, but by spring, plans called for a single dome at Lakeville North High School, bringing to a head the fierce rivalry between the city’s two high schools, North and South. Some said the North location would give those students an unfair advantage.

In April, plans were shifting to include a dome at North and a new turf field at South, Kutzler said. By August, they had evolved into the current arrangement, which proposes that the district pay for one turf field at each high school as part of a $44 million capital levy proposal to go on the ballot in November. Also included are security enhancements, a pool at Century Middle School and more gym space at McGuire Middle School.

The school board plans to put a $4.2 million operating levy on the ballot as well. Both questions must be approved by the school board at Tuesday’s meeting.

The contract between the district and Dome Partners hasn’t been finalized, Kutzler said, but he believes that his company can make a profit while the domes bring revenue back to the district, too.

The domes will provide a place for older adults to walk during the winter and benefit the business community when visitors come to Lake­ville for tournaments, he said.

If voters approve the capital levy, construction on both domes would start in the summer of 2020, Kutzler said.

“I think the community’s going to be excited,” Kutzler said. “It’s going to be a game-changer for Lakeville.”