Tuesday, October 10, 2000

Guard, Forest Park plan hits opposition

By Mark Schmetzer
Enquirer Contributor

        FOREST PARK - A city proposal to work with the Army National Guard to build a shared recreational complex/Guard operations center on soccer fields here has upset some residents.

        City Council, at a work session tonight, is expected to discuss a plan by the National Guard to build a 100,000-square-foot training facility/community center on the 18-acre Kemper Meadow Soccer Complex.

        The complex is west of Winton Road between West Kemper Road and Kemper Meadow Drive.

        Some of the five Kemper Meadow soccer fields could be eliminated to make way for a new facility. The Kemper Meadow complex also has a covered picnic area and parking.

        City Manager Ray Hodges says any proposed building layout would need to include two or three soccer fields.

        “We don't have enough soccer fields as it is,” said Mike Battle of Manford Court.

        Mr. Battle coaches the Falcons, a Soccer Association for Youth team of 8- and 9-year-olds. “We're already competing with the (youth) football teams for time (on other fields). This is the only decent facility we have.”

        Forest Park has a task force that has spent years looking for ways to get a community center built in the city, Mr. Hodges said.

        “We've explored a number of alternatives,” Mr. Hodges said. “... None has materialized as viable.”

        Forest Park is one of several communities contacted by the National Guard about a dual-purpose facility, Mr. Hodges said.

        The Guard proposes building the basic facility, which would have meeting rooms, a video-conferencing center, kitchen, classrooms, auditorium, secured parking for military vehicles and 500 public parking spaces.

        Military vehicles would not include tanks, nor would there be a maintenance facility included.

        The city would be responsible for adding recreation facilities such as a swimming pool, fitness area or gymnasium.

        The Guard has similar arrangements with centers in Bloomington and Brooklyn Park, Minn. Ty Smith, Forest Park's human resources director, has visited them, Mr. Hodges said.

        The estimated construction cost is $10 million to $12 million, with an estimated annual maintenance cost of $800,000 to $1 million, Mr. Hodges said.

        “This would be a shared facility and a shared cost,” he said.

        Connie Ciccone, who liveson West Kemper Road across from Kemper Meadow, has organized a petition drive against the plan. She thinks the city can find other uses for its money and has concerns about increased traffic.

        • The proposal also is the scheduled topic for public meetings at 2 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. Oct. 19 in the Forest Park Fire Department meeting room.


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