Athletic fields at the Jimmy Lee Recreation Center in St. Paul will remain closed until next year, when lead-contaminated soil can be replaced with clean dirt.

The city will need to remove most of the top 2 feet of soil from the fields and replace it with 4 feet of clean soil, Mike Hahm, Parks and Recreation director, wrote in a letter released Wednesday.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency instructed the city to do so after a series of tests revealed unhealthy levels of contaminants. Lead was the most worrisome.

Designs will be updated and the remediation plan will be completed over winter, when the ground is frozen.

Costs will be decided over winter, too, and the EPA will cover some. The city will include cleanup costs within the $1.6 million budget to construct a synthetic sports field, Parks and Rec spokesman Brad Meyer said.

Dirt removal and replacement are set for spring. The fields at the center, south of Interstate 94 and east of Lexington Parkway, should be ready by fall 2011.