Rochester’s Park Board is set to review bids to pave the Soldiers Memorial Field Park track Tuesday as a local group continues its push for finding an alternative to that.
With $850,000 available for paving the track and a nearby parking lot, Rochester Parks and Recreation staff received two bids — $657,000 and $680,000 — which would also include work on East Soldiers Field Drive.
Without putting asphalt on the track, the lowest bid would drop to $362,000.
On Tuesday, Park Board members will be given the option of accepting the full bid or scaling back the work to allow continued discussion of alternatives for the track’s surface.
Track advocates, working under the grassroots organization known as Save The Track, propose replacing the cinder track with an alternate aggregate, since cinders, common until they were widely replaced by synthetic track surfaces half a century ago, are no longer available.
Advocates of the alternate surface say the material, which includes clay and engineered soils, provides a better running surface. The track at Soldiers Field is the city’s only track available for general public use.
Park staff members have voiced concern that the alternative materials wouldn’t stand up to festival use, which involves driving food trucks and other vehicles on the oval surface.
The advocates, meanwhile, have offered cases in which alternative material are used for a variety of events, including at CHS Field, a downtown St. Paul baseball field that also hosts festivals.
“The heads groundskeeper says the surface holds up well to event traffic,” the group wrote in a report sent to the Park Board, noting steps can be taken to protect the track surface.
While the Save The Track group hasn’t identified a cost for using the proposed alternate material, the advocates’ report indicates the city’s contribution would be limited to the $295,000 an asphalt surface would cost.
Local fundraising and grants are listed as alternative funding sources.
An online fundraiser launched July 23 had generated $7,325 with 86 donors by Sunday afternoon. The fundraiser has a $50,000 goal.
Park staff has indicated that kind of public support will likely be needed to reduce the city's financial risk in using a new product, the maintenance costs of which are unknown.
Additionally, if Park Board members opt to continue to look at an alternative product, they are being encouraged to ensure the track will be ready for Rochesterfest in June 2020.
The Park Board meets at 4:30 p.m. Tuesday in room 104 of City Hall, 201 Fourth St. SE.