Gladstone approves $10M plan for sports park

GLADSTONE – The Gladstone City Commission approved a $10 million plan for the sports park during its regular commission meeting Monday night.

One of the major components of the new plan is a new ski chalet, which would replace the existing chalet and cost the city an estimated $1,950,000.

“Your building now is fine, it’s very usable, but you can’t do much with that,” said Patrick Coleman, urban and town planner with U.P. Engineers & Architects, Inc. “We’re recommending that you consider a new facility that will meet the needs of your customers and your staff and generate potential for more revenue out there.”

The evaluation that UPEA conducted on Jan. 10 of this year indicated a number of issues with the existing chalet, which was constructed in 1974.

In addition to addressing structural problems such as inadequate insulation and roof that moves in high winds, the new building would face the ski hill and include spaces that could better suit customers renting the facility.

The ski hill would also be updated under the plan. Because of how close the sports park is to Marquette Mountain, UPEA has recommended the city focus on developing a terrain park – a feature that is frequently difficult for parks with hundreds of acres of skiing to maintain in addition to their other hills.

“You can have this (equipment) fabricated locally, and that’s what the kids want today,” said Coleman.

Producing adequate snow has also been an issue for the park.

“Your water is too warm – your city water – and your guns are not the right type and so you’re spending a lot of time making very little snow,” said Coleman.

In addition to purchasing new snow making equipment, the city plans to create a pond at the bottom of the hill that can collect water naturally. The water would be cooled by winter temperatures, and that water would be used to produce snow. Roughly 4.4 million gallons of water – or a one acre pond 14 feet deep – would be needed to cover the ski and tubing hills at the park with one foot of snow.

Summer uses of the park are also included in the plan including summer tubing, upgrades to the ball fields, tennis or basketball courts, playgrounds, clear trailheads, an archery range, disc golf, picnic shelters, a pump track, and a dog park.

“(We’re) showing a lot of things focused around the ball field but that really help make this more of a destination location for tournaments and other things,” said Coleman.

Parking and traffic calming upgrades are also included in the plan. A series of smaller parking lots would be located in different locations around the park, pedestrian crossings would be clearly marked, and center boulevards would be added to separate directional traffic.

While the commissioners expressed they were pleased with the plan, there was concern over the $10,006,512.54 price tag for the project.

“I’ve always felt the sports park was a lightning rod,” said Commissioner Joe Maki. “There are some people who feel that the sports park costs this community too much money and maybe we should look at different uses, and other people that are passionately in favor of keeping it in business. If we’re going to keep it in business we’re going to need to maximize that property. I think this plan does a good job of that.”

Because the city does not have the capital to fund the project currently, the plan will be used to show the city’s intentions when applying for various grants and funding opportunities. Phases of the project will be completed as funding is secured by the city.

“Any project from big to small, small to big, you normally have to have a plan in place and this is actually what we’re looking for. Obviously the $10 million price tag is an eye-opener,” said Mayor Darin Hunter.