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Votes

Sports Facility Adjusts

Eliminating track brings cost to $11.7 million.

An eight-lane track will not be part of the new All City Sports Facility if and when it comes a reality. That fact lowers the projected cost by approximately $6 million.

Announced at a special Parks and Recreation Commission meeting last Wednesday night at the Mount Vernon Recreation Center, the track was removed from the plans due to the discovery of a 36-inch sewer line bisecting the Hensley Park site on Eisenhower Avenue, just east of the I-95 Eisenhower Interchange.

"When we did our due diligence we found we had a number of restrictions on the site. Three of those were sanitary sewer lines. The large one runs right across the property," said Roger Blakeley, deputy director, Recreation, Parks & Cultural Activities Department.

"The day the ribbon cutting was to take place would probably be the day the sewer line would break. Then they'd have to come in and dig up everything we had done," he said. The new configuration of facilities, minus the track, allows for such an occurrence without damaging newly created sports venues.

"The discovery of these various elements almost made it a no-build situation," said Judy Guse-Noritake, Commission chair. "But, this is something that was done correctly. The staff did their homework."

Staff of the Parks and Recreation department along with those from the Department of General Services analyzed what could be done on the site by removing and/or moving certain elements during the planning/design stage, according to Blakeley. "We wanted to see what would happen if we dropped some program elements," Blakeley said.

IN THE FINAL analysis it was discovered that of the five elements planned for the facility only the track had to go. "If we dropped the track we found we were able to maintain the four remaining elements," he said.

By removing the track, the estimated cost of the project also dropped from $17 million to $11.7 million. This cost is anticipated to be divided between a City Council appropriation and private donations, each providing approximately $5 million plus, according to Blakeley.

During a May 2005 meeting the commission established a list of facilities for the site. In priority order they were:

* One lighted, artificial turf, multi-use athletic field with seating for 4,000, men's and women's locker rooms, public restrooms, press box, and concession area

* Two ball fields for baseball and/or softball

* Parking for 300 cars for standard events

* One eight-lane 400 meter competition track

* One multi-use indoor facility

During the site inspections, staff found "the presence of three sanitary easements on the site, two of which have dramatic impact on the original preliminary concept and reduces the useable area," according to Blakeley's presentation.

They also discovered that the "topography of the site requires multiple elevations for program elements," the report stated. As a result, adjustments were made in the concept plan to better utilize the are while avoiding the sanitary easements.

In the realignment process, five options were explored. Four of those kept the track. The fifth eliminated it.

Primary selling points for Option Five according to Blakeley's presentation were:

* Removal of track allows for a traditional stadium

* Accommodates better site circulation and parking

* Accomplishes top three program priorities

* Incorporates a maintenance facility component

* Does not preclude future incorporation of an indoor multi- use facility.

"T.C. Williams has a six-lane track that will not be lost during construction. The track as originally presented was only six lanes. But, we felt it made more sense to go to eight lanes for competition reason. However, six or eight it would not fit with the restrictions," Blakeley said.

"If you put a track around a field, it limits the size of the field. We need to figure out what is the largest field size we need to accommodate all sports," Noritake said.

She also emphasized, that as far as the program elements were concerned, "We [the commission] did not create this program. We responded to a proposal put forward to us."

Noritake added, "The indoor facility was originally presented to us as a roller rink. Our rationale was that if we were going to construct this facility it should be useful for a variety of purposes."

Two other obstacles posed by the site, according to the due diligence analysis, are a 32-foot grade change from one end to the other and limited access and egress with only two entrance/exits. "When we have large events we will have to make arrangements for additional parking off site," Noritake said.

A proposal to move ahead with the facility is scheduled to go to City Council at their Oct. 25 meeting. "We have an RFP ready to go. It depends on Council. We could have football there by September 2008," Blakeley said.

"But, nothing is certain until you receive bids," said Kirk Kincannon, director, Recreation, Parks & Cultural Affairs.