Rochester Public Schools considers reworking athletic fields at newly-built Dakota Middle School

"If you were to go up there and put a ball at home plate and walk away, it would probably end up in the pond shortly thereafter," RPS Chief Administrative Officer John Carlson said.

Dakota Middle School.
Jordan Shearer / Post Bulletin

ROCHESTER — Even though the ribbon has been cut and the classrooms are occupied, there's still work left to do at the newly built Dakota Middle School in northwest Rochester. Or rather, work to redo.

The school opened for the first time in the fall of 2022, one of four new buildings funded by the school district's 2019 referendum. In spite of the fact that it's a brand new facility, RPS Chief Administration Officer John Carlson said the athletic fields at the school need to be placed on the district's long-term facilities maintenance plan.

Why? They're uneven.

"If you were to go up there and put a ball at home plate and walk away, it would probably end up in the pond shortly thereafter," Carlson said. "The field is sloping down hill ... there's already requests to regrade (it)."

The district has $3.7 million remaining from the referendum that totaled $180.9 million. Since voters had already approved that funding, RPS is able to spend it on remaining projects. The fields aren't the highest priority on the district's to-do list, which also includes upgrading security features at some of the schools. So, it may be a while before they're fixed.


But, high priority or not, it still begs the question: Why does the district need to regrade the athletic field of a brand new school?

At the time, Carlson was referring specifically to the softball field. But, there are reportedly issues to the soccer field as well.

There were a few moving parts that contributed to the situation becoming what it is. One of them was the road construction the city of Rochester was doing on 65th Street Northwest, which runs in front of the school. The construction of the school and the construction of the street coincided and overlapped with one another.

According to Keane McWaters of Knutson Construction, that process impacted some of the school's property.

Dakota Middle School.
Jordan Shearer / Post Bulletin

"The final project ended up changing the elevation slightly after the fields we had established were already kind of there," McWaters said about the construction of the street and the soccer field. "If you go look at it, you'll see a high point in the field."

Other factors contributing to the situation were the construction budget and the standard the field needed to reach. Carlson explained that the fields didn't need to be designed to the standard of competitive high school athletics.

By comparison, the ball field at John Adams Middle School is able to host practice for the John Marshall High School team.

Since Dakota Middle School's field didn't need to reach a certain standard for athletic performance, the district focused on constructing the actual school building before it spent a lot of funding on having high-standard athletic fields.


Nonetheless, if the school district does decide to rework the fields, it will have to pay for the work since the slope was not the result of contractor error. The district does not yet have a cost estimate for resurfacing the field.

"Ultimately, the decision was made to keep the field with the sloping 'as is' and circle back to it later if there were funds leftover after construction," Carlson said via email. "There are, and (that's) why it's on the list of potential uses for the leftover funds."

Jordan Shearer covers K-12 education for the Post Bulletin. A Rochester native, he graduated from Bemidji State University in 2013 before heading out to write for a small newsroom in the boonies of western Nebraska. Bringing things full circle, he returned to Rochester in 2020 just shy of a decade after leaving. Readers can reach Jordan at 507-285-7710 or
What To Read Next
Get Local