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Plans take shape for April 22 bond vote for athletic complex

Voters will decide the fate of Rosemount's Outdoor Recreation Complex April 22 if the city council takes the recommendation of parks and recreation commission. The commission approved a resolution Monday recommending the council move forward with a spring referendum for $8.5 million.

The council will decide at one of its February meetings whether it wants to move forward with the referendum. If it passes, the referendum will support the construction of the Outdoor Recreation Complex, which will be located on donated land on the corner of Akron Avenue and Bonaire Path, and improvements to the old St. Joseph's Church building. The parks commission had discussed adding tennis courts at Erickson Park but the commission chose not to include those in its recommendation to the council.

Instead the commission decided it would like to see more amenities such as lighting for fields and concession stands built at the complex with referendum funds. Tennis lovers need not fear, though. The parks commission members said they intend to look at putting in additional tennis courts around town through its capital improvement projects.

The Outdoor Recreation Complex will be a multipurpose athletic facility that will include baseball, softball and soccer fields as well as walking trails and playgrounds. The old St. Joseph's Church renovations will bring the building up to code and make it more usable for the community.

While approving the recommendation was a step forward for the the complex the commission also had to take a step back. Conversations with Dakota County about access to the complex may result in the loss of one of four soccer fields planned.

The approved master plan has traffic entering and exiting the complex from Akron Avenue, a county owned road. Parks director Dan Schultz said the county doesn't want all the traffic from the complex going onto the road and so a second access onto Bonaire Path may be necessary, which would likely result in the loss of a soccer field.

"I'm upset about losing a field," said commissioner Sandra Knight.

Schultz said staff has reviewed a number of ways to fix the conflict but so far has not come up with a solution. He added that city staff will continue to look for a way to accommodate the county's demand without the loss of a field but it doesn't look good.

While the loss of a field would not be good, the complex would still mean a significant increase in the city's soccer field capacity. A second group of soccer fields will likely be built further down Akron Avenue in cooperation with Dakota County Technical College. The city has signed a letter of understanding with the college and Schultz said they plan to move forward with the project in coming weeks.