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District 196 board approves financing and bids for first artificial turf fields

The District 196 School Board approved financing and awarded bids April 13 for construction of artificial turf fields at Eagan and Rosemount high schools. Construction will begin as soon as possible and the fields are expected to be ready to use by the start of the school year this fall.    

Eagan and Rosemount are the first two of four artificial turf projects that will be completed over the next 16 months; separate financing and bids will need to be approved for projects at Apple Valley and Eastview high schools next year. Each high school will get two artificial turf fields, one stadium field and one practice field with lights. Total project costs are estimated between $17 million and $19 million.

At its Apiril 13 meeting conducted by videoconference, the board approved the sale of $8,960,000 in certificates of participation to low bidder Northland Securities, Inc., of Minneapolis, at a rate of 1.9685 percent per year. Debt service on the certificates will be paid off over the next 10 years through the district’s annual property tax levy. Director of Finance and Operations Mark Stotts said the project will increase the district’s total levy by approximately 1 percent next year.

“It was nice tight bidding,” said Jodie Zesbaugh of Ehlers and Associates, the district’s financial consultant. “We are really happy to see a rate under 2 percent. We were a little worried it would be a higher than that, so we’re very, very happy with these results.”

After approving the financing, the board awarded bids for construction of the fields at Rosemount and Eagan high schools. Peterson Companies of Chisago City was the lowest of three bidders for the Rosemount project, at $3,857,500. G.L. Contracting, Inc. of Medina was the lowest of four bidders for the Eagan project, at $3,608,850. Stotts said both projects are slightly under budget.

“It was a competitive bid day and we got a good purchase,” said Scott McQueen of Wold Architects and Engineers, the district’s architect. McQueen said the companies are anxious to get started on these projects as soon as possible. Construction is an essential service that has continued operations during restrictions for the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We are excited to get things moving forward this summer,” Stotts added.

The artificial turf projects were proposed by the administration in December, in response to growing concerns about safety and playability issues on the district’s sod fields. The situation reached a breaking point last fall, when a wet season and failed drainage tile system caused Rosemount High School to shut down its stadium field. All four district high schools limit play on their stadium fields and have had to reschedule events because their fields were unplayable.

District 196 high schools are part of a shrinking minority of metro-area high schools (24 of 76) and the only member high schools in the South Suburban Conference and Region 3AA that do not currently have artificial turf fields.