Friends & Neighbors,
I am very pleased to report to you that on March 4, 2020 the Board of Aldermen, by a unanimous vote of 6 to 0, approved a resolution to proceed with the development of the Dardenne Prairie Athletic Complex next to City Hall. I believe this project will be worthy of Dardenne Prairie and comparable to the City Hall Park that attracts patrons to it every day, weather permitting. Our parks are “destinations” that serve our residents and people from neighboring communities. They enhance the quality of life for us all and help to improve property values for our city residents.
I want to commend our 6 Aldermen who supported the resolution to proceed. They were careful, thoughtful and acted as responsible stewards of the public’s resources. This project has been under consideration for nearly 5 years, so no one should conclude that the Board of Aldermen were overly hasty.
Let me share with you the history behind this project. In about 1953, a non-profit corporation, doing business as the Dardenne Athletic Association (DAA), acquired 4.5 acres of land along Hanley Road and with volunteer labor and contributions constructed baseball playing fields. Over time the fields were lighted, bleachers were added, a concession stand was built and thousands of kids played little league baseball and softball. When Dardenne Prairie acquired land next to the DAA fields (for City Hall and the City Hall Park) the City entered a 99 year lease with the DAA to enable the City to use the fields when DAA-run baseball leagues were not playing. In 2015, soon after I became Mayor, the DAA asked the City to take over the operation of the youth baseball and softball league from them. The City and DAA then amended the lease agreement to transfer operations to the City and to agree, in principal, to the City eventually acquiring ownership of the fields in exchange for a commitment to invest in capital improvements that would support continued use of the fields for youth sports.
In the spring of 2016 the City operated the youth baseball and softball league for the first time and took over complete responsibility for field maintenance, repair and upgrades. In 2017 the voters of Dardenne Prairie approved a half cent sales tax to support Parks and Recreation and Storm Water projects. We began to collect that additional revenue in 2018. In the meantime the City’s Parks & Recreation Department added fall baseball to the schedule, increasing use of the fields. In 2019 the Board of Aldermen authorized the City to hire firms to provide architect/engineer and construction management services to develop a design concept for a new athletic complex. It became clear to us that we could not achieve the improvements we needed on just the 4.5 acres. The Board of Aldermen then approved the purchase of 2 additional acres adjacent to the ball fields so we could design a complex on 6.5 acres.
During 2019 we developed and revised several design concepts. The design concept presented to the Board in September 2019 was deemed too expensive, so we went to work to find ways to reduce the scope and cost of the project. After our new City Administrator, Dan Lang, joined the staff at City Hall this year we were able to bring to the Board the revised scope of work that the Board approved last night.
Our plan includes adding a new field 3 with 190 ft. baselines to right and left field walls; a new restroom and storage building replacing to old cinderblock structures there now; and enlarged parking lot paved with concrete in place of the smaller gravel lot presently there; a maintenance building to house the city’s vehicles, equipment and tools; at least 2 pickle ball courts, upgraded lighting on fields 1 and 2; a paved walking trail around the perimeter of the Athletic Complex; new dugouts; field irrigation systems; sanitary sewers; storm water detention systems; and new fencing. This investment in capital improvements is the commitment that the City is making as part of the agreement with the DAA to acquire title to the DAA’s 4.5 acres. Title to the ground will transfer to the City before we award any construction contracts.
We expect the City to issue Invitations for Bid and Requests for Proposals about May 1st. Bids and proposals will be due about June 1st and contracts would be awarded in late June. Work would commence about July 15 and be complete in time for the Spring baseball and softball season in March 2021. Our plan is to finance the construction with “Certificates of Participation” just as we did for the construction of City Hall and the City Hall Park. Debt service will be paid for by a portion of the Parks and Storm Water tax revenue.
The City has not released its internal estimate of the costs of the project because we want contractors to compete for the business by offering the lowest responsible, responsive bids. Our experience is if we release the internal government estimates, bids tend to come in just at that estimate. Suffice it to say, we slashed a considerable amount of money out of the project that was publicly discussed and rejected at the September 4, 2019 Board of Aldermen meeting.
I believe the residents of our City will be proud of the new Dardenne Prairie Athletic Complex. The Best is Yet to Come!
“Shine a Light on City Government”
DAVID C. ZUCKER
City of Dardenne Prairie, MO