St. Cloud Community Members Still Hoping to Save Clark Field [VIDEO]
ST. CLOUD - Even with pieces being removed from the site, community members are still fighting to save Clark Field in St. Cloud.
The St. Cloud school district has a plan to put in a new $25 million building on the site for early childhood education, community education, adult basic education, the district welcome center, media services and the administrative offices.
Ruth Kaczor is a coach in the district and is part of the "Friends of Clark Field" group. She says the field is valuable for students.
"It really is a place for kids. I've coached a lot of youth football here, I just think a lot of things happened here and I don't want to see this green space given up to a concrete building."
The process for a new building started in April when the district needed a new home for it's early childhood education programs. School board chair Dennis Whipple says they took the history of the field into account before moving forward.
"We really felt at the time that were were honoring the history by putting our early childhood learners here in the heart of the city. At the time it really felt like the right thing to do."
Clark Field opened in in 1942 and was closed to Tech varsity football in 2012 due to mold and structural concerns. School board member Bruce Mohs was vice chair of the board at the time and says the state told District 742 that the field should be closed.
"The state health department came in and said this is not a good place publicly to play football. So they issued a decree that this should not be used."
After being closed, the Tech alumni association pitched a plan to the district to raise half of the $3.2 million needed to renovate the field. Bruce Mohs says the district eventually decided to take a different route.
"We needed to slow that down a little bit. The superintendent ultimately came back with an operations recommendation that we should not commit moneys from our capital budget to do the renovation here."
The broad plan was to build a new high school and have all athletic facilities on its campus. However, the $167 million referendum that would have included just over $113 million for a new Tech was voted down on Tuesday. The Clark Field building wasn't included in the referendum, it would be payed for by a $10 million lease levy, $6 million in insurance proceeds and with money from the recent sale of the Colts Academy building to St. Joseph.
The dilemma is where to host sporting events in the district. For now, games and practices have since been relocated to Selke Field. Lower level team games could be hosted at South Junior High. Physical education classes at Tech will likely use Lake George for future outdoor space.
Since the process started towards putting in a new building, Whipple says many in the community have urged the board to slow down its decision.
"What I've heard on this project is a little bit of 'slow down' and that there's a lot of change happening in this district very quickly. There's people who maybe didn't realize that the process was happening."
The district recently approved leveling off the field but still needs to approve the building. School board chair Dennis Whipple says it’s not 100 percent certain the district will move forward with the project. A community meeting will be held Tuesday night at 7:00 p.m (11-10) at Tech High School (door 6) for feedback on the future of the site.
"As much as we share and press release, we're still missing some people and they're not getting their voice to the table. I wish we had been here earlier for some of this feedback but we're trying to make right with the neighborhood to get that feedback on Tuesday."
"Friends of Clark Field" is also organizing a community photo on Clark Field on Sunday at 3:30 p.m. The photo will be added to their Facebook page.