Contract would seek concept for potential Rochester tax-funded sports and recreation complex

Rochester council will be asked to move forward on developing concept for project as Minnesota lawmakers review local sales tax request.

Drone - Downtown Rochester
Downtown Rochester as seen on March 12, 2019.
Andrew Link / Post Bulletin file photo

ROCHESTER — Work to identify needs and develop a concept for a proposed regional sports and recreation complex is expected to cost up to $184,800.

On Monday, the Rochester City Council will take under consideration the hiring of design and engineering firm ISG Inc. to study the sports complex proposal, which is part of a request for extending the city’s half-cent sales tax.

The consultant with a Rochester office of ISG would be tasked with conducting community engagement efforts, as well as providing a concept design that would address gaps in current sports and recreation opportunities in the city.

A final recommendation from ISG would be expected in July.

Meanwhile, the city’s request for extending the sales tax, with $65 million designated for construction of a regional sports and recreation complex, will be reviewed by state lawmakers.


Current state requirements call for any potential extension to be approved by state lawmakers before a local public vote can be held.

During a recent meeting with Olmsted County commissioners, Sen. Steve Drazkowski, R-Mazeppa, said past practices called for holding a local vote before state approval, but the process was reversed to ensure local voters were being asked to approve sales-tax-supported projects that had state approval.

“The order changed, because if the Legislature tweaked it, it was something different than what was approved locally,” the Mazeppa Republican said.

If state lawmakers approve the tax extension for specified projects, the issue is expected to be on the city ballot in 2024.

City staff said the concept developed with ISG will be used to show local voters what would be done with extended sales tax, which generates approximately $12 million a year.

The City Council postponed a proposal to seek a concept for the proposed center in 2022, opting to wait for state lawmakers to consider an earlier request for extending the sales tax.

While lawmakers didn’t take a final vote on the request in 2022, the measure did appear to have enough support to indicate it would have moved forward, if time hadn’t run out for the 2022 session.

Local and state officials point out that it doesn’t mean the request will meet the same results this year, since several new lawmakers have been elected and party control of the Minnesota House has shifted.


“The current Legislature is somewhat different and will potentially have very different views on what should be in that legislation,” said Rochester Mayor Kim Norton, who previously served as a member of the Minnesota House.

The council will consider the contract with ISG during its regular meeting at 7 p.m. Monday in council chambers of the city-county Government Center, 151 Fourth St. SE.

Randy Petersen joined the Post Bulletin in 2014 and became the local government reporter in 2017. An Elkton native, he's worked for a variety of Midwest papers as reporter, photographer and editor since graduating from Winona State University in 1996. Readers can reach Randy at 507-285-7709 or
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