by David Tesitor
WALSENBURG- The committee analyzing contractors’ bids to begin installation of the sports complex astroturf field will make their recommendations at the Re-1 school board meeting this Tuesday. A contract will be awarded to begin Phase II of the new sports complex. All that is left, according to district grant writer, Gaye Davis, “is to award the contractor the bid.” If everything goes according to plan, construction can begin within the next few weeks, once permits and other paperwork are completed.
At last December’s school board meeting, the board unanimously voted to allocate “up to $ 140,000 from the Capital Reserve Fund to begin construction of Phase II.” The amount the district expects to use out of the capital improvement fund may not be this high. School Superintendent Mike Doyle indicated there are credits and grant money available if we use recycled Colorado rubber in the construction of the field. Because of the recession, other costs are also down. The district will construct the playing surface first. According to Doyle, “We will be playing there this fall.”
Last December, the board also looked into the filing of a lawsuit to seek the recovery of monetary damages suffered when USA Partners failed to honor their contract. Last year, USA Partners promised $525,000 in grant monies to begin the project, but their claims fell short. When that promise turned into a field of nightmares, the Board decided to seek legal remedies. At the end of December, the school district filed a lawsuit in District Court for the $50,000 they gave USA Partners. In addition, they are seeking court costs and legal fees. A similar lawsuit has been filed in District Court in Pueblo by Rye District 60 for similar promises broken. According to Doyle, “All we are waiting on is the court finding someone to have authority to serve the papers. Last we heard, this was done.” USA Partners is based in Florida. He went on to say, “Getting a judgment is one thing. Collecting is another.” At their meeting this Tuesday, the board will learn of the progress.
The remainder of the money to complete Phase II would come from grants, matching grants and community sponsors. No taxpayer dollars will be used to complete the project. Doyle expects that once ground is broken, there will be grants from the Great Colorado Outdoors (GOCO) for the surface of the track and from the Department of Local Affairs (DOLA) to begin the construction of the restrooms, concession stand and locker rooms as well as construction of the bleachers. The applications are in hand and will be filed shortly. The last piece of the pie would be the track itself, then the lighting. The district expects to receive money from GOCO to finish this project. The final grant they will apply for will be from the Gates Foundation for $250,000. The Foundation usually grants monies to those who put in some of their own funds and have other matching funds in hand.
Once complete, the facility will be a state-of-the-art facility which would have an all-weather, eight-lane oval track around the perimeter of the football and soccer field, seating for 1500 spectators on the home side and 400 on the visitors’ side of the field, concession stand with restrooms, locker rooms, equipment storage facilities, lighting for multipurpose uses and an oversized parking area to accommodate large busses and spectator parking.
The facility will also include a trailhead which links the state park with a walking trail outside of Walsenburg. Combining Re-1 use with the needs of the community was part of the master plan With this complex, the district can host local, regional and state track and field events as well as rent the facilities to other area schools for their events. With twelve to twenty teams competing, bringing in an estimated thirty-five to fifty members per track team as well as their parents, fans and staff, this City of Walsenburg will see an economic windfall, as participants will fill up restaurants, motels and the downtown area and spend their money. The people of Walsenburg will be the end beneficiaries.
This massive project was first envisioned in 2004 when the Walsenburg Middle School was closed and the funds from the sale of the building became available. The initial projected costs of the complex were estimated at 1.5 to 2 million dollars and have now spiraled to just under 3 million. In December, 2005, Huerfano Re-1 purchased a 37.22-acre site three blocks to the west of the high school to build their field of dreams. The site would be large enough to accommodate a state-of-the-art facility as well as to satisfy any future plans the district may have for growth.
Construction of the first phase began shortly thereafter with the preparation of the land which included a geolophysical study of the land, a survey, design and engineering of the land, over lot grading, installation of the utilities, and installation of the asphalt track surface, fencing and gravel parking lot. Funding for Phase I came from grants from Great Colorado Outdoors (GOCO) and the Department of Local Affairs Energy Impact Assistance Program (DOLA), USDA Rural Development, Huerfano County Parks and Recreation and the school district.