Most of St. Michael-Albertville’s voter-approved bond projects are nearing their final completion dates. Here’s an update on how these projects are progressing:
Ryan Breitbach of Breitbach Constructions said the all-purpose facility will be complete in early September, but the curing of the track will delay the facility’s official opening. High School principal, Bob Driver, said crews laid the track’s underlayment Monday of this week. This takes 28 days to fully cure before they can lay the top of the track.
“We want to make sure to cure it right,” Driver said. “We’re not going to put anything on it too soon.”
The all-purpose facility will open in time for STMA’s third home football game, September 21st. Boys and girls soccer will also be impacted, and all three sports teams will play their first few home games at their former home locations.
Driver said the all-purpose facility’s bleachers are in place, and the artificial turf and the press box will go in next week. He said it will take about two weeks for crews to install the field.
The ice arena is on schedule for a completion date of November 1, the latest of the bond’s big construction projects. Last week the school board revisited the issue of whether to use a concrete or sand floor below the new ice sheet. The board had already decided last fall to use a sand floor, which saved $107,000 over concrete. Superintendent Dr. Ann-Marie Foucault said the district received input from an ice arena consultant and arena managers from some of the state’s largest arenas when making this decision, but board chair Drew Scherber said the superintendent has been “under a lot of pressure” on this issue. He wanted to bring it back to the board to see if their opinions had changed.
However, the cost of the concrete floor has risen to $132,000 over sand, and Foucault said going with a concrete floor at this point would set the rink opening back by six weeks so the concrete could cure.
The benefit of a concrete floor is that it only takes three weeks to remove and replace the ice, versus a six week process for sand. This will cost the district about $27,000 in lost ice time to remain out of commission those extra three weeks. Foucault said recommendations call for the ice to come out every few years, but other sand rinks in Minnesota have gone much longer than this by shaving down the ice and repairing it. Edina’s sand rink hasn’t been taken out for eight years, and Blaine’s Schwan Super arena, which has four sand floor rinks, has never taken their ice out of those rinks in 20 years.
STMA school district’s maintenance and grounds manager, Terry Zerwas, voiced his opinion that the floor ought to be concrete. He said his research showed that STMA would save about 35 percent on energy costs due to the thinner sheet of ice required over a concrete floor versus sand.
“This is our opportunity to do it right the first time,” Zerwas said, “because it will come back to bite us.”
However, an ice arena consultant with international experience told STMA back in January that the operational costs were a wash between sand and concrete and might even be more efficient with sand.
School board members, recognizing that the ice arena has been a contentious bond item and has already gone over original cost estimates, didn’t show a willingness to reconsider a concrete floor.
Classrooms and Tennis Courts
The high school and primary school classroom additions are essentially complete, and teachers will move in next week. Driver said the high school will open its doors to 2,100 students next month, and he said the additional space is greatly appreciated. The high school tennis courts will not be completed in time for the girls’ season to start, so the team will begin at the Middle School West courts and then move to the high school upon completion. Driver said they had anticipated this mid-season location change from the beginning, but they do not yet know when the high school courts will be complete.
“It’s all pretty exciting,” Driver said. “The pieces of the puzzle are all starting to take place and we can see exactly how it’s going to be laid out. We’re just thankful for the support from the community. Our students are going to benefit so greatly from it.”