Dome Partners LLC to install first dome this year

The Lakeville Area School Board approved on a 3-2 vote during its Tuesday meeting an agreement with the private Dome Partners LLC to place a sports field dome at Lakeville North High School to open in fall 2021 and an exclusive one-year right to raise a second dome at Lakeville South.

It took only a few minutes for board members to voice their support or concerns about Dome Partners’ ground lease proposal before the vote.

Board members Judy Keliher, Kathy Lewis and Lynn Gorski voted yes, and board members Terry Lind and Dave Anderson voted no.

During its April 20 work session, the board took about an hour to discuss the proposal, which was presented in full for the first time.

Board members asked questions about the lease and discussed a second domes effort called the One Lakeville Dual Domes Proposal that was sent Sunday, April 18, to District 194 administration and board members.

During Tuesday’s meeting board members echoed their statements from the previous week’s meeting.

Lind and Anderson, who both said they see the need for a dome, were concerned about a clause in the contract that would give Dome Partners a one-year exclusive right to inform the district if it would move forward with placing a second dome at Lakeville South.

If Dome Partners seeks a lease to build at Lakeville South, it would have three months to negotiate a lease from the time of the notification.

Lind said this could put off having a dome at Lakeville South into 2023.

Anderson said he was concerned that there was no guarantee for a second dome.

He also said he was concerned there was no revenue sharing in the agreement for the field rental time when the dome is up.

Lind said: “The final point in my mind is this: It is not a North-South situation. Even if this location were changed to South, I would still have concerns about this proposal.”

“I’m looking forward to this positive opportunity,” Gorski said. “It’s not North versus South. It’s for the community, the Lakeville Area community.”

She said it would bring economic development to the area and benefit local shops and restaurants.

“I think it’s going to be absolutely invaluable,” Lewis said of the impact the dome will have on youth sports and other community groups.

Keliher and Lewis advocated for moving forward with the Dome Partners proposal during the work session, noting that it has been discussed for years. The initial Dome Partners agreement was introduced in February 2019 and the board resumed discussions of it at the March 16 meeting.

Keliher and Lewis noted that the community identified a need for the domes six years ago and it shouldn’t have to wait another year.

At two meetings prior to April 20, Superintendent Michael Baumann presented components of the agreement, without releasing the full document from Dome Partners, which is led by District 194 parent Josh Kutzler.

Board members discussed at those meetings the implications of having one dome at Lakeville North before another is potentially raised at Lakeville South. The first dome at Lakeville North would have an equal use agreement for teams associated with both high schools. Coordination of that equal use would be handled by the two schools’ activities directors.

Baumann said during the March 16 meeting that Dome Partners told him the sequential placing of the domes was necessary due to financial considerations.

Dome Partners would pay for all costs related to the dome materials, construction and management while the dome is installed and raised each year.

It would pay a base rent of $1 per year for the dome that would be raised for six months a year. In exchange, Dome Partners would allow the district free use during those six months from 5:30-7 a.m. and 2-5:30 p.m. Monday through Friday (an estimated value of $292,500). It would charge $25 an hour per field during the hours of 7 a.m. to 2 p.m. for district use.

The lease would be in effect for 10 years, at which time Dome Partners would have four additional options to renew the lease for another five years.

During the 2019 dome discussions, it was reported that Lakeville North teams pay $17,500 to $29,500 annually in fees to use dome time outside of Lakeville. Lakeville South reported about $8,000 worth of such use. Both of those costs are borne by booster clubs, according to the district.

After the first dome proposal from March 2019 was reconsidered, District 194 placed the infrastructure costs for two dome-ready turf decks at Lakeville North and Lakeville South in the successful November 2019 bond referendum. One turf deck, which can be marked for three fields, has been constructed at each school.

The district would use an additional $1.4 million of existing capital funds to pay for stormwater, utilities, gas and electric work that would be completed prior to placing the dome. The costs total $751,049 at Lakeville North and $877,632 at Lakeville South. An additional $200,000 of funds will need to be identified to complete the work.

The district has the authority to name the facility, but if naming rights are sold, the district and Dome Partners would split the proceeds. The district would also have the authority to sell on-field advertising, while Dome Partners would be able to sell advertising in any other locations inside the building, such as the rafters, restrooms and entrances.

Second proposal

Baumann said during the April 20 work session that he met with a group representing the One Lakeville proposal, which was submitted by District 194 parent Stuart Lieber.

“I don’t think we should block that opportunity,” Baumann said. “What is in front of us (the Dome Partners proposal) is a legitimate, viable agreement, that actually talks about two domes as well.”

He said the Dome Partners proposal was ready to go, while the One Lakeville concept would require more time to vet.

Lind said during the work session he liked the One Lakeville concept since it would have two simultaneous dome installations, which would be run by a nonprofit.

He said that one drawback would be waiting one more year for a dome to open.

Lewis and Keliher were skeptical that One Lakeville could have both domes in place by Nov. 1, 2022, which is what was set forth in its proposal.

“I think they have great intentions, great heart. I don’t think they have the wherewithal to pull this off,” Lewis said.

Lewis said the proposal framework didn’t address some of the day-in and day-out operations.

Keliher said the proposal was very incomplete.

Lewis said with Dome Partners they have something solid to work with that is more of a commitment to get two domes.

“For the good of all of the community, it is better I think waiting one year,” Lind said.

Anderson didn’t have specific questions at the work session since he said he would have to read through the eight-page Dome Partners proposal before giving his assessment of it.

District 194’s work session materials are not sent in advance to board members prior to the meeting – a change that was implemented this year.

Anderson said he is worried the issue is dividing the community enough to hurt the bond referendum on May 11 to approve funds for land and the construction of a ninth elementary school.

Keliher said the issue is divisive only if you let it be divisive.

“If people are choosing not to vote for academic space because they can’t get what they want, then shame on them for putting that on our kids’ learning. We have to move forward,” she said.

She said a lot of time and effort has been put behind the Dome Partners agreement.

Keliher said when she talks to people, both groups want dome turfs and they want them at both high schools.

“It is up to us as the leaders of this community to not let this divide us,” Keliher said.

Tad Johnson can be reached at tad.johnson@apgecm.com.

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