A nonprofit athletic association seeking to build the state's largest sports dome has taken its project to Anoka, after litigation appears to have derailed plans to build in neighboring Ramsey.
The Anoka City Council on Monday gave an initial sign-off to an ordinance that would allow the Anoka Ramsey Athletic Association (ARAA) to buy a piece of city-owned property for $1.
A second look at the ordinance and a vote on the proposed sale of the Gray Ghost Field site — on Bunker Lake Boulevard adjacent to Anoka High School and Ice Arena — is scheduled for Oct. 2.
"This is really an opportunity for our community, our kids, our citizens, for the athletes in the area," Mayor Phil Rice said during Monday's council meeting. "This is a great opportunity for the Anoka Ramsey Athletic Association. All parties stand to benefit from this."
If approved, the ordinance would allow the city to buy the property back if the ARAA does not comply with terms outlined in the purchase agreement.
The ARAA had wanted to start construction on a 180,000-square-foot facility near the intersection of Hwy. 10 and Armstrong Boulevard in Ramsey this spring. The association had won approval from the Ramsey City Council in February for the athletics center, which would have 1½ green-turf fields — large enough for three softball games to be played at once. The facility also would have eight full-size basketball courts, volleyball courts, batting cages and a weight training area.
But a neighboring property owner then sued the ARAA and the city of Ramsey, claiming the dome did not have enough parking and would lead visitors to use lots on his properties, which include a nearby industrial center and a strip mall.
Court records show the case brought by Matt Kuker, the chief operating officer of PSD, LLC, continues. A mediation session is scheduled for Oct. 19.
ARAA President Dustin Reeder said he could not comment on the litigation. But in a Facebook post in July, the association said "we are invested in this project and will not stop working until a resolution is found."
It was not immediately clear if Monday's development in Anoka ends discussions with Ramsey. An email to the city on Tuesday seeking comment had not been answered.
But ARAA Board Member Josh Jungling on Monday night said the association is excited to be working with Anoka, suggesting talks with Ramsey are over.
"We have been looking at a lot of different locations; we've wanted to get this going," Jungling said during the council meeting. "What started as a dream has become a reality. I think this will give our kids a competitive advantage and level with other cities that have domes or facilities in place that we don't."
Founded in 1979, the volunteer-run ARAA has grown from offering one sport to 10. It now has 36 basketball and volleyball teams and serves about 4,000 youths annually.
Several details must still be worked out before the sale becomes final.
The City Council would also still need to approve a site plan for the dome. An electrical line that runs through the property may have to be moved, and the ARAA would need to work out an arrangement with the Anoka Hennepin School District to share the parking lot at Anoka High School. Lot lines also would have to be redrawn to allow the city to retain land housing a wind turbine and city-owned pump house.