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Farmington, Empire may partner to run new ballfields

The city of Farmington and Empire Township may partner to manage these new ball fields along Highway 3.

Farmington officials are hoping to team up with their neighbors when Empire Township's new athletic complex opens in 2013.

On Monday, the Farmington Parks and Recreation Commission got the go-ahead from council members to execute a proposal to partner with the township to run the new ballfields on Highway 3. Approval by Empire officials could bring a few new teams to the area, and possibly expand the community's adult softball programs.

The proposal comes after several conversations between members of the city's and township's parks and rec commissions, Farmington parks and recreation director Randy Distad said. The two groups meet a few times a year to talk about amenities that benefit both communities. Last November, that conversation turned to the athletic complex being built in Empire.

The athletic complex will not be ready for teams this year, but Empire parks commissioners are looking at an opening of 2013. Farmington's commissioners asked whether the township would be willing to partner on the project, Distad said. They received a favorable response.

The Farmington parks and rec commission has spent several months building the proposal they brought before city council members at a joint workshop Monday. Under the proposal, the city of Farmington would take on much of the maintenance -- fertilizing the turf, collecting garbage, aerating and grooming the fields, and even managing the portable toilet service contract -- for the ballfields. The proposal also offers to provide the staffing for adult softball leagues, as well as to develop youth clinics and camps.

The city also proposes to share expenses, and revenues, and the difference in expenses and revenues, between the city and the township.

Distad is excited about the possibility such a partnership could bring to both communities.

"There's an unlimited potential with the four field complex (in Empire) in terms of running tournaments and those kinds of things. Along with the fields in Rambling River Park, with six lit fields, we could run some pretty big tournaments," he said. "Hopefully we would be able to get teams from outside the Farmington area who would come here and spend money in the community."

The city of Farmington has an adult field complex, and a youth field complex, in its plans. The youth complex is planned for a section of land north of 195th Street and Diamond Path. The adult complex is planned just to the south of that. Those ball fields have been discussed several times over the past decade, but the city would have to put the projects out to a bond referendum. City officials have chosen not to pursue that option due to the economy.

"Given the recent downturn in the economy, the city council felt it wasn't the right time to do that," Distad said.

The Farmington parks and recreation commission will take the proposal approved by council members to Empire's parks and recreation commission for discussion. If the township commissioners are in agreement with the terms, a more formal agreement will be written to spell out all the terms.

Once that agreement is in place, both city council members and the Empire Township Board of Supervisors will be asked to weigh in on it. If both approve, the two parks and rec commissions will start planning next year's leagues.

"This is just a beginning, not an end," Distad said. "We're just getting started with this whole process."

Michelle Leonard

Michelle Leonard joined the Woodbury Bulletin staff in November, 2014, after 14 years covering news for the Bulletin's sister publication, the Farmington Rosemount Independent Town Pages.  Michelle earned her Bachelor of Science degree in Mass Communications: News-Editorial from Mankato State University in 1991. She is an active member of the American Legion Auxiliary Clifford Larson Unit 189 of Farmington, and served as the 2014-15 Third District President to the American Legion Auxiliary Department of Minnesota. Michelle is also the volunteer coordinator for the Minnesota Newspaper Museum which is open annually during the Minnesota State Fair. She has earned Minnesota Newspaper Association awards in Investigative Reporting, Local News Coverage, Feature Photography and Column Writing. 

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