Work moves forward with ISD 197 improvements


submitted graphic The new athletic field at Henry Sibley High School, which was given the green light Oct. 16 by the Mendota Heights City Council, will include a new multi-use turf field, track, bleachers and areas for track competitions.

New athletic field approved in conjunction with bond remodel plans

 

Steps were taken Oct. 16 to begin work on items included in the $117 building bond that was approved earlier this year in ISD 197. 

The Mendota Heights City Council approved, before a chamber packed with Henry Sibley colors, a number of resolutions that will allow for several athletic field improvements at Henry Sibley High School, which was built in the early 1970s.

Voters approved the building bond in May for structural and mechanical maintenance upgrades at the school. Plans also included a new athletic facility, which is now set to be completed in about a year.

 

The work

Tim Benetti, community development director, said the school is located in a single-family residential district but is guided as school in the 2030 Comprehensive plan. He said this kind of use is allowed in residential districts.

Henry Sibley currently uses the athletic facilities at Charles Matson Field in West St. Paul because its own facilities are unsuitable for competition.

Benetti said the running track will be replaced with a nine-lane track and a new turf football field will be built that is suitable for multiple sports. 

Benetti said there would also be new field event areas including shot-put, long/triple jump pits, a high jump area and pole vault area.

New bleachers would be constructed along with a concessions/restroom facility, team/storage facility and a ticket booth. 

The Planning Commission voted Oct. 4 to approve the project. 

 

Question of character

District Superintendent Peter Olson-Skog said some of the concerns raised during the Planning Commission meeting were that the district didn't involve the community in the design stage. 

"The community did speak ... just this last May and overwhelmingly supporting the improvements to our schools," Olson-Skog said.

He said the district is not asking for variances in relation to sound and lights. He said the city will have the ability to enforce those codes, and the district plans to enforce the sound, light and traffic ordinances in place. 

Olson-Skog said there has been a lot of discussion of whether the new structures will alter the essential character of the neighborhood. 

According to the Mendota Heights Vision statement, which says "excellent schools and a well-educated populous compliment the traditional but progressive character of the city," Olson-Skog said he thinks the plans for the school fit with the vision statement, and thus, the neighborhood. 

Rob Anderson, who lives directly north of the proposed stadium, disagreed, taking issue with the new facility's lights and requesting the council look at the totality of the impact on the neighborhood. 

Sue Micevych said she lives two houses down from the proposed stadium. She said those labeled the "opposition" are there to talk about their homes. 

"We want the students to have a stadium as well, but we feel like we're defending our homes. The homes where we’ve raised our children, the homes we're very emotionally attached to," Micevych said. 

She added nuisance factors like noise, parking, traffic and crowds create a huge burden on their homes. 

 

School, 

community use

Layla Rajput is a senior at Henry Sibley High School and a member of the track and field team. 

"Our track specifically is pretty much falling apart," Rajput said. "We have holes and cracks, and you can literally peel off the track. Sometimes we'll hide our car keys under it so they don't get stolen."

Rajput said there have been multiple injures when it rains because the water seeps under the track and moves it. 

The field currently in use is grass, which Rajput said makes it difficult to host multiple sporting events each week. 

She said she and other students are only asking for the same facilities their competitors have. 

Holly Farber said she used to live by the high school and that it being there was an asset when they purchased their home, and again when they sold it.

"The happy activity of Sibley High School is part of the beauty and character of that neighborhood," Farber said. "The character of the neighborhood is all of this wonderful stuff that goes on at a high school."

Council member Ultan Duggan said he didn't have a problem with the number of structures or lights. He said blending the accessory structures in by using school or neighborhood architecture would be something he would be happy to accept.  

Council member Liz Petschel said there are a number of people in the community who run on the track. Said Olson-Skog, "We do see these as community facilities." He also said there are ways community groups could rent the school facilities.

After over two hours of discussion, the council voted unanimously to approve the various variances, with clauses to address, some of the issues raised. 

 

-Hannah Burlingame can be reached at 651-748-7824 or hburlingame@lillienews.com.

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