Dome Partners LLC to propose draft agreement for Lakeville dome

The West St. Paul dome is similar to one that is currently being proposed by Dome Partners LCC. The private company would build and maintain the dome with no tax dollars and provide free usage of the dome during most hours to Lakeville school programs. 

Second group offers to raise two domes simultaneously

During its Tuesday, April 27, regular meeting, the Lakeville Area School Board will consider approval of Dome Partners LLC’s proposal to place a dome at Lakeville North High School and potentially a second one Lakeville South.

The board discussed the Ground Lease Proposal, which board members saw for the first time at the meeting, for about an hour during its April 20 work session. 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.

Time was a recurring topic.

Board Members Judy Keliher and Kathy Lewis advocated for moving forward with the Dome Partners proposal, 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, 2021, 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.

Board Member Terry Lind expressed concern about Dome Partners’ proposal that would place the first dome in fall 2021 at Lakeville North, and have an exclusive option to raise a second dome at Lakeville South within 12 months without a guarantee.

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

Board Member David Anderson, an attorney, said he would need more time 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.

Baumann said if board members had questions about the Dome Partners proposal, they should be sent to him by end of the day Wednesday, so the administration and its attorney could have time to review them if necessary.

At previous meetings, Baumann has presented components of the agreement, without releasing the full document from the private investment group Dome Partners, which is led by District 194 parent Josh Kutzler.

Board members have discussed at previous 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.

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.

Second proposal

Baumann said 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 is ready to go, while the One Lakeville concept would require more time to vet out.

Lind said he liked the One Lakeville concept for several reasons.

He said having two domes raised at the same time would pull the community together instead of dividing it.

He said having a nonprofit running the domes could lead to lower charges since it wouldn’t need to make a profit.

Lakeville South Youth Football, a nonprofit 501(c)3, would spearhead the effort to raise two domes, but the long-term plan is to create a new community-wide nonprofit that is not tied to one of the high schools.

The proposed nonprofit would have a board of directors consisting of current youth sports-related or other leaders throughout the Lakeville area.

Lind said he thinks the group has the financial wherewithal to go through with it.

“It is not a fly-by-night thing at all,” he said.

One Lakeville says that local banks have shown support of the project with a down payment being required to fund a loan between $2.7 million to $3 million to raise the domes.

One Lakeville says the down payment would be paid for by fundraising and donations.

One Lakeville says based on conversations with only potential Lakeville, Farmington and New Prague users, both domes could be sustainable in the first year, covering both operation and loan costs, as each dome would need approximately 550 hours of annual sales at a market rate of $450 per hour – an estimated 10.5 hours a week.

Lind said as a group the board has always looked for ways to develop community partnerships and the One Lakeville concept would be a positive community-school district partnership.

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 is 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.

“I’m concerned about the fact that it is not going to happen,” Lewis said. “I don’t want to be 22 years waiting for a dome like we had to do with a pool.”

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 said he is worried the issue is dividing the community 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. “If people are really wanting what is in the best interest of our kids, have them stop and take a look at what the agreement is. … That’s what we need the feedback on.”

The Dome Partners agreement will be available for view at meetings.boardbook.org/Public/Organization/1160 prior to the meeting.

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

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