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Rochester council receives update on study tied to proposed sports and recreation complex

By Randy Peteron

May 17, 2023

May 15—ROCHESTER — Preliminary plans for a proposed regional sports and recreation complex remain in the works as Rochester waits to hear whether state lawmakers will allow it to hold a vote on extending the local sales tax.

"We actually haven't started design on this project," Cyle Erie, project executive with ISG, told the Rochester City Council on Monday.

ISG was tasked earlier this year with assembling a team of consultants to study sports and recreation needs and propose a preliminary plan that could create added sports tourism for Rochester, while also increasing local and regional access to recreational facilities.

The proposed $65 million facility that would be funded by the city's half-cent sales tax, if extending the tax is approved by a public vote next year.

Evan Eleff of Sports Facilities Cos., which is working with ISG, said his team has been compiling a variety of data to understand the current market but also gauge what type of tournament activity could draw big crowds to the city.

He said the information generated will help city officials make future decisions regarding local facilities, even if the Minnesota Legislature doesn't grant permission for a sales-tax vote.

"This is a very useful set of information, regardless of the outcome of the legislative session," he said.

In addition to the data, the consultants have been gathering public input related to residents' desires for new facilities.

Nicole Bauknight of LSE Architects said the work will seek to reach all demographics in the city.

The next public outreach effort is an open house being held from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. Tuesday, May 16, at Mayo HIgh School.

Bauknight said the school building was selected as a location that would be comfortable for residents throughout the city, as well as walkable for people in nearby neighborhoods.

She said at least one more public poll is planned and smaller focus groups are likely to ensure an accurate cross-section of the city is represented in the consultants' report, which is due in July

Eleff said the mix of objective data regarding existing sports and recreational facilities and subjective community input will drive the final recommendations.

"They are both critically important pieces," he said, noting the data can point to what would work best as an economic resource, while community engagement will outline what would be used locally.

He said the two objectives have the potential to work together, since sports tourism driven by tournaments typically occurs on weekends, leaving the facilities for local use at reduced costs for participants.

Rochester City Administrator Alison Zelms said it's too early to focus on specific potential uses for the proposed facility, since community engagement efforts continue.

She said the council will likely receive another update on the process in a couple months, after more information is known.

In addition to creating a preliminary design for the sports and recreation complex, the consultants are expected to provide an operations and maintenance plan and provide insights regarding options to consider regarding a future decision on the facility's location.