Debate heats up over use of land
After an hour of sometimes heated debate at their meeting on Monday night, the Blue Earth City Council was no closer to making a decision of what to do with the former go kart land at the city-owned fairgrounds than they have been for several months.
At issue is that both a youth baseball group and the Faribault County Fair Board want to use the land.
At their last meeting, the council had requested Daryl Murray of the fair board and Brent Legred of the baseball association to meet and decide if a baseball field could be built and still leave room for space for the fair to use to expand its grandstand shows.
“While there might be space for a youth-sized baseball field, the fair board thinks the best option is to explore other sites for a baseball field,” Murray told the council. “That doesn’t mean an end to the baseball discussion, but we think they need to also explore other options.”
Legred had a lengthy presentation for the council that included a drawing by Bolton and Menk Engineers showing a baseball field in the location.
“This would still leave the 160 feet of room for the fair board to use in front of the grandstand,” he says. “And we have looked at other locations for a field, like the 14th Street location, and the best spot is this go kart area.”
Legred explained the growth of the baseball association and the need for another field. He also told the council that his group is working on grants for building a new baseball field. One would be from the Minnesota Twins, the other from Major League Baseball.
“You have to decide what is the best use of this prime piece of property,” he told the council. “We think there is enough room for both a field and a grandstand area for the fair.”
Fair board member Sara Gack disagreed, saying the fair needed more than just a 160-foot strip.
“The 160 feet is great, but we really need the whole space during the fair,” she says. “We need it for parking for the trucks and trailers for demolition derby cars, moto cross, even for the trucks for entertainment groups.”
Legred suggested that since the fair board is going to spend $20,000 to $25,000 to move the grandstand farther east of its present location, they could spend $2,000 more and move it anywhere on the fairgrounds.
“I take offense at some of Brent’s comments,” Murray says. “He seems to be telling the fair board what to do. We don’t have any set plans on moving the grandstand, it is just an idea of what we want to do in the future.”
Murray was also upset that Legred’s plan shows the infield of the proposed ballfield is now in the southwest corner of the property, while in the past it has been in the northwest corner. And, it was a larger infield than before.
Murray also repeated that the fair board is still wanting to swap ownership of land, with the fair board taking ownership of the grandstand and the area around it, and giving the city ownership of the land where Giant Park and the Giant statue is located.
Some City Council members were ready to vote for spending $1,000 to $2,000 to survey the land in question, but Mayor Rob Hammond, City Administrator Kathy Bailey and City Attorney David Frundt all pointed out there already are surveys of the fairgrounds property available.
Hammond appointed a committee of three councilmen to further explore whether the land could serve both purposes and how it would work. The three are John Gartzke, John Huisman and Russ Erichsrud.
He requested the committee come back to the next meeting with some ideas, dimensions, drawings and proposals.