School board delays part of Wescott construction; Lights to be added at track

Published 10:36 am Tuesday, April 14, 2015

An artist’s rendering shows what the dome would like over Art Hass Stadium at Wescott Athletic Complex. Photo provided

An artist’s rendering shows what the dome would like over Art Hass Stadium at Wescott Athletic Complex. Photo provided

Wescott Athletic Complex will not be getting year-round bathrooms by this summer, but lights will be added to the track and the coming dome gained extended life expectancy.

The Austin Public Schools Board unanimously rejected a base bid for some of the general work at Wescott for its $5.2 million dome project at it’s regularly scheduled meeting Monday evening in the City Council Chambers. The work put on hold would have made a concession area and bathrooms a 12-month facility along with additional site parking.

Austin Public Schools will still officially start work this spring to install artificial turf on two fields at the Wescott Athletic Complex and to install the seasonal dome over Art Hass Field.

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However, the district only received one bid for the general construction work in question, and that bid was higher than expected.

“Since we only had one bidder on the project, and we didn’t necessarily care for the price — I mean it was quite a bit higher than the architect’s estimate — we decided to reject it now, and we can do it sometime down the road,” Finance and Operations Director Mark Stotts said.

Although the district has completed several successful projects with JD Driver — the company that bid for the project — Stotts recommended the board reject the base bid.

With the high bid, the district decided the timing for this part of the project wasn’t right.

“Because of the timing on when the decision was made to move forward with this project, we kind of got out late for bids on the general contract piece, and it’s something we can do any time,” Stotts said.

The construction work doesn’t have to be completed with the initial work and could happen within the next few years, which Stotts said could give the district time to gauge future needs.

“The first year’s going to be a real learning experience with the dome, in terms of number of people using it, how much parking do we think we’re actually going to need,” Stotts said. “And so we want to get a feel for where we’re actually at with things before we dive into that kind of project.”

Funds go for lights, fabric

With one part of the project on hold, the district opted to move ahead with other improvements.

Stotts said the district is adding two new things to the project: lights to the north track field and Tedlar fabric to the exterior of the dome.

The lights will help with night games or practices and even makes Austin able to host the Big 9 track meet, according to Stotts. The fabric will help the dome withstand fading/discoloration, help with snow removal and make the dome last longer.

“It extends the useful life of the dome,” Stotts said. “It about doubles the life of the dome.”

With the project additions and cuts, Stotts said the project cost is still within the $5.2 million budget.

The dome project, announced in November 2014, is part of a larger community recreation center project with Vision 2020 intended to meet community needs. Along with the dome, the project will put turf on both stadiums in the complex.

The domed field can be used for soccer, softball and baseball practices, along with a few softball and soccer games. The dome will be open to the community and to adult and recreational athletic leagues.

The district has discussed putting artificial turf on the fields for several years. The artificial turf on both fields will give Austin an opportunity to host section tournament events, since the Minnesota State High School League now requires all football section title games to be played on turf.