After more than an hour of discussion and comments from the public, members of the Sun Prairie Plan Commission recommended city council approval of a general development plan to redevelop Ashley Field.
The Sun Prairie Area School District and Bray Architects sought approval to redevelop the existing field, which runs east-west, into a new multi-purpose 4,075-seat stadium that will be situated north-south on the same field area.
Additional parking will also be part of the plan, which does not include the current Prairie Phoenix Academy at 160 South St. as part of its development. The district plans to demolish the building in 2023, after the academy has moved into the current Cardinal Heights Upper Middle School (soon to be Central Heights Middle School) at 220 Kroncke Drive and work with the city to redevelop the parcel, possibly with additional parking.
With its new north-south orientation, spectators will enter through three ticketed gates on the upper plaza level, located at the south end of the field.
Both the west and east sides of the field will have top loaded bleachers with Americans with Disability Act (ADA) accessible ramps from the upper plaza.
Currently there is no proposed entrance from the north, according to City Planner Sarah Sauer’s report to the commission.
After some questioning by Commissioner Kevin Wait, SPASD Buildings & Grounds Director Kevin Sukow said he would prefer to see what happens with redevelopment along Main Street before committing to any field or plaza entrance from the northeast.
The upper plaza will be level with the parking lot, approximately 20-feet above the playing field, and include restrooms and concession stands. Team and training rooms will be located on the field level below the west bleachers. The venue will be surrounded by a 6-foot tall aluminum fence with multiple gates for exiting events and for emergency cases.
Primary vehicular access to the stadium will remain from the south end of Kroncke Drive with secondary access off Linnerud Drive.
Two 24-foot wide emergency access drives will connect the site to South Street; one from the parking lot located south of the field and one through an off-street multi-use path to the north. The lit multi-use path located north of the venue will provide a connection from the off-street multi-use path on Commercial Avenue to downtown.
A tree-lined promenade connecting the front entrance of Cardinal Heights Upper Middle School (CHUMS) to the ticket window is included in the center of the parking lot for pedestrian access. Bike racks accommodating up to 40 bikes are proposed at the southeast corner of the venue.
Two residents who live near the stadium on Kroncke Drive asked for the district to consider no parking along Kroncke Drive during events at the field. One homeowner told the commission that people who park there block his driveway and litter on his property. The litter resulted in damage to a new mower the man purchased to mow his lawn, he told the commission.
Sukow told the commission the lights will be left on until 10:30 or 11 p.m. during game nights, but Richard Becker, who lives at 194 Kroncke Drive and is surrounded by district property on three sides of his home, said that was not true.
“I don’t believe they’re going to be off at 10 o’clock,” Becker told the commission. “They’ve left them on all night long.”
But Sukow said the new lights can be controlled remotely by the lighting contractor and that only three people will have authority to call the company to have them left on longer than their program time.
Relating to public events, such as concerts, at the new stadium, Becker said he was not a fan. He said many of the school groups who play music at the stadium now are louder than the fans.
Representatives from Bray and Sukow emphasized, however, that the sound will come from an audio system but that the sound would be projected back into the bowl, not outward. The main public address audio system will be located in the scoreboard, which will be directed south, towards the high school. And city staff added language to the resolution which says that even though the district supports the addition of public events, the city will want to gauge the progress of events at the stadium after both schools use it to determine the viability of adding larger public events later.
Sukow questioned the need to add bike path around the north end of the stadium as part of the plan, which shows the bike path connecting from Kroncke Drive to South Street. Even SPASD representative Dave Hoekstra, a member of the Sun Prairie School Board, questioned the need for the bike path.
Both City Planning Director Tim Semmann and City Community Development Director Scott Kugler spoke in favor of the path. Semmann pointed to recommendations by the Transit Commission’s Bicycling Sub-Committee and the city’s recently updated Comprehensive Plan which calls for the addition of bicycle-friendly facilities when possible.
Kugler said he wanted as much alternative access to the site as possible, noting the already clogged traffic on Kroncke Drive during games. Both Kroncke Drive homeowners said the city needs to study traffic flow on Kroncke Drive and develop solutions to relieve congestion on the street.
Sukow questioned whether the bike path could be added with the tight timeline the SPASD has already established to get the field completed by August. Both Semmann and Kugler said the installation of improvements could wait until after a development agreement is approved between the city and the SPASD, but demolition could begin as soon as the city council takes final action to approve the plan next Tuesday.
Parking, or lack thereof, was a concern raised by commission chair and Mayor Paul Esser, who noted the SPASD will be short 574 parking spaces to meet ordinance requirements.
Sauer said she hoped the district could work with the city on parking, especially after the demolition of PPA.
“Somewhere those neighborhoods are going to have absorb that [parking],” Esser said.
Commissioners left the bike path in as part of their approval recommendation, but did not add any parking requirements for SPASD. The commission’s recommendation to the council was approved on a 8-1 vote, with Commissioner Barb Bailey voting no.