RENU committee approves designs for rec center

NEW ULM — Schematic and concept designs for the Recreation Center updates and Hermann parking lot came before the Reinvest in New Ulm (RENU) Oversight Committee Tuesday.

Both sets of designs and concepts were approved by the committee and will be passed on to the city council.

The designs for the Recreation Center require an addition on the south side of the existing building. This addition would be the new aquatics center. The indoor playground would also be constructed in this new section. The former indoor pool would be renovated to include the Gymnastic Center. 

Lead JLG Architect Linda McCracken-Hunt said the former pool location would be a great opportunity for placing gymnastic pits.

The construction management firm RJM proposed to construct the facility in phases. The new pool, new entry/lobby and fitness area would be part of the first phase. The current field house entrance could still be used during construction. 

The gymnastics center would be part of the second phase. Phase three would include locker rooms, gymnastic support, and a new main entrance. 

McCracken-Hunt said the phased approach to the construction would take longer, but it would allow the city to use the Recreation Center pool and other amenities throughout the process. The former pool would only be shut down after the new pool facility is constructed.

The schedule is to request bids in January 2020 after the final approval from the council. Bids would be received in February and awarded in March 2020. The construction budget is estimated at $9.5 million. 

The design and schematics were unanimously approved by the committee.

The design for the new Hermann Heights parking lot would move the Monument Street entrance further west on Center Street to improve sightlines for drivers. The paved parking lot would be installed in the field near this new entrance. 

The design would eliminate green space for the park, but with the relocation of Monument Street, sections of the road would be replaced by new tree plantings. The relocation of the road will require the removal of 21 oak trees.

A second smaller parking lot would be installed closer to the playground and northern shelter.

The plan would create 89 regular parking stalls, four handicapped stalls, and room for three coach buses. Community Development Director David Schnobrich said a traffic count showed the heaviest parking at Hermann Heights is during graduation parties in late May and early June. The highest count was 71 vehicles. 

The estimated construction cost for the Hermann parking lot is $780,059.50. This estimate does not incorporate the Hermann retaining wall improvements recently approved by the city but they could be added later.

City Attorney Roger Hippert made the motion to recommend the city approve the design and schematics with a second from City Councilor Lisa Fischer. The recommendation was unanimously approved by the committee.

“I am thoroughly impressed with what we have presented,” Committee Chair Toby Freier said. “If you had told me this is what we could get for RENU dollars I wouldn’t have believed it.”

The RENU legislation authorized New Ulm for $14.8 million in sales tax revenue. Allocation for the RENU project includes $1.55 million for Johnson Park, $1 million for Hermann Heights Park updates and $11.5 million for Recreation Center construction. There is $700,000 in overall contingency for the RENU projects.

A preliminary rental agreement between the City of New Ulm and Turner Gymnastic Academy (TGA) was reviewed by the committee. This lease requires TGA to pay $5,000 a month for the facility. 

No formal recommendation was made on the draft by the committee. City Manager Chris Dalton said the draft lease would be brought to the council as an update.