After more than a decade of planning and negotiations, the Spokane Park Board finalized a contract this week that will redevelop and enlarge a park near Joe Albi Stadium.
Construction of a new sports complex for softball and soccer at Dwight Merkel Field will start next month, following the approval of a $7.8 million contract with Bouten Construction Co., of Spokane.
Park leaders expressed relief that the bid was low enough to leave money for a BMX track, skateboard park and other amenities that will be built under future contracts.
“Obviously, we’re very excited to see it all coming to fruition,” said former city Councilman Rob Crow, who was appointed by then-Mayor Dennis Hession in 2006 to lead a committee that examined the future of Joe Albi and surrounding land.
Voters set aside about $4 million for the park in 1999 by approving the sale of other parkland. But a series of controversies, including neighborhood traffic concerns, delayed the project.
In 2007, after park backers reached various compromises with concerned residents, $7.6 million for the project was included in a $43 million park and pool tax approved by voters.
“It’s a really neat project for the community,” said Scott McGlocklin, project manager at Bouten, the low bidder on the project.
Construction will begin after an April 6 meeting about the project at City Hall, McGlocklin said.
In the first phase of development, Bouten will build five illuminated, natural-turf softball fields and one illuminated, artificial-turf soccer field. Also to be built: seven natural-turf soccer fields, a neighborhood park, 1,040 parking spaces, trails, utility improvements and landscaping.
Structures at the complex will include concessions for softball and soccer, restrooms and a maintenance center.
The construction this year will allow seeding of fields in August to give turf time to grow for use in 2010, McGlocklin said.
Funding for the Albi project includes about $4 million held in reserve for a softball complex from the sale of park property near Northpointe to Wal-Mart. Parks officials more than a decade ago sought to build a softball complex at a reclaimed sewage lagoon, but they encountered neighborhood opposition. Voters in 1999 approved moving the project to Albi, and the parkland was sold to Wal-Mart at a profit to the parks department.
The city received 10 bids on the Dwight Merkel project, said Nancy Goodspeed, parks spokeswoman.
The current soccer fields at Dwight Merkel have been maintained by the Spokane Youth Sports Association, which has about 6,000 participants in its spring and fall soccer programs.
Philip Helean, executive director of the organization, said a decision hasn’t been made on whether the association will continue its maintenance role or if it will be taken over by the parks department.
He said it will be a challenge to schedule practice and games during reconstruction.
“It’s like having your bathroom remodeled at your home. There’s never a convenient time to do it,” Helean said. “We’ll live with the inconvenience for now, knowing that when the complex is done it will be really nice.”