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Mill Creek City Council to reconsider Jackson High School sports field partnership

The Mill Creek City Council will reconsider a partnership with the Everett School District to build a Jackson High School all-weather multi-use sports field at their May 6, 2014, regular meeting.
Proposed Jackson High School all weather sports field. Image credit: City of Mill Creek.

By Richard Van Winkle, News of Mill Creek.

The Mill Creek City Council will reconsider a partnership with the Everett School District to build a Jackson High School all-weather multi-use sports field at their May 6, 2014, regular meeting.

Councilmembers discussed the partnership at great length at their April 22nd regular meeting, but could not decide whether or not to proceed with the joint venture.

Although the Everett School District has said they would probably renovate the Jackson High School all-weather field even if Mill Creek decides not to participate, the failure of the Everett School District’s capital bond election makes things a bit murky.

If the Everett School district does decide to go it alone, they told the City they will reduce their costs by not including the lighting necessary for evening use. The City of Mill Creek needs lighting for late afternoon and evening use.

There is a great demand for all weather sports fields in the Northwest. Sports like soccer, lacrosse, and football are very popular in the fall, winter, and spring months that see lots of rain. Regular turf fields become mud pits with heavy use.

Mill Creek’s Freedom Field cost about $2.5 million to build in 2003. The funds that paid for this single-field, all-weather sports park came from the Mill Creek Town Center development.

Mill Creek receives mitigation fees from developers when shops and residences are built. Some of this money is earmarked for community parks such as Freedom Field and by law can only be used for this purpose.

In 2004 the City of Mill Creek purchased the Dobson-Remilard property north of the Freedom Field sports park with the idea that someday it could be developed into a multi-use sports park for soccer, baseball, softball, and football.

The City Council’s plans for expanding Freedom Field went a step further in 2008 when they hired Hough Beck & Baird Inc., a Seattle landscape architecture firm, to estimate the cost for the construction on a two-field sports complex on the Dobson-Remilard property.

Their hopes were dashed by the resulting $9.4 million estimate because the City had saved only about $1 million in community park mitigation funds for the project. With relatively little undeveloped land, the chances of collecting millions more in mitigation fees seemed remote.

The City of Mill Creek and the Everett School District have been working for almost three years on a joint venture agreement to develop an all-weather multi-use sports park on an existing Jackson High School soccer field.

The idea was to share development and maintenance costs equitably so that the school could use the fields during the day, and the city could rent out the fields at night.

The field location is a bit tricky because the extensive lighting required could bother local residents.

Pam Olson, Mill Creek Parks and Recreation Manager, contacted a number of sports clubs in the area to assess the demand for a multi-use sports field. She estimated that the City can collect enough usage fees from these groups to pay their portion of the yearly maintenance costs.

Sharing maintenance costs turns out to be very important when looking at the life-cycle cost of Mill Creek’s investment.

If Mill Creek were to build their own sports field they wouldn’t receive much more revenue because there is very little demand during the day. However, the City’s maintenance costs in this case would be twice as much as the shared-use field.

Mill Creek and the Everett School District shared the cost to create a detailed design for the sports field. Mill Creek’s share was $35,000.

The total estimated cost for the Jackson High School field renovation is $2.6 million including lighting and grandstands for 200 spectators.

According to Tom Gathmann, Mill Creek Public Works Director, the City’s share of the costs will not exceed $1.3 million even if there are project overruns. The City now has $1.165 million in community park mitigation fees set aside for this project.

Gathmann said the draft joint agreement allows the City to use the field 60% of the available time, which is a great deal for the city.

The City Council is always interested in receiving public input on issues such as this. If you have an opinion you would like to share with them, please send them an email. Their email addresses can be found on the City’s website.