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Sports complex opportunities touted

October 2, 2012
By Jenny Kirk , Marshall Independent

MARSHALL - At a work session meeting Monday, members of the Marshall Public School board heard about an opportunity for expanded collaboration in connection with the proposed Southwest Regional Amateur Sports Center that is up for a vote in November.

Along with an 80,000 square foot indoor ice rink that would be adjacent to Marshall High School, Roger Madison, co-chair of the Southwest Minnesota Amateur Sports Commission (SMASC), said during his presentation there was also the potential for further expansion in the area.

"One of the places that we saw as continuing to create additional opportunities is the property that you see listed as Lot A," Madison said. "When we started on this path, there was a huge opportunity with the hockey piece. But there was also soccer, wrestling was actually high on our list, along with softball. There are some good opportunities to grow and draw people into this community."

A preliminary concept for Lot A, which is next to the tennis courts at MHS, includes a 4-field complex.

"It would primarily be for softball, but could also be available for youth baseball," Madison said. "The collaboration comes in because the high school owns that land. As it would be re-developed into that kind of complex, it would, we believe, be advantageous to the high school."

Marshall currently bring in an average $1 million annually in athletic tourism, Madison said. The addition of the ice arena, which could also serve venues such as volleyball, basketball, wresting and soccer, along with the proposed field complex, has the potential to significantly drive up the economic development in Marshall, Madison said.

"There's been a growth of 15 percent in the last three years, during one of the toughest economic times," he said. "We believe we can continue that by including not just this ice facility, but the repercussions that come with it."

Along with the strong draw for parents and others to move into the community, Madison said he believes that the proposals can bring in quality retail and hotel prospects. In fact, there has already been evidence of that, he said.

The path towards this type of project began many years ago, Madison said, but really started taking shape in the last four years. Years ago, he said, a partnership with the Minnesota Amateur Sports Commission tentatively chose Marshall as the last regional site to develop in the state.

"One of the things we recognized when choosing this as a place to come, is there was a huge geographical potential," Madison said. "There's the ability to draw people in from South Dakota, Iowa and Nebraska. Through events like the Pursuit of Excellence, even places like Colorado. That creates the ability to bring dollars into the state of Minnesota, which was the ultimate goal of the Amateur Sports Commission."

If the vote does not pass, Marshall would likely lose its state-supported designation as one of seven statewide Regional Amateur Sports Centers to another competing community like Mankato, Willmar or Worthington.

Madison said he believes an additional reason why Marshall was chosen is because of its self-reliance.

"Marshall does pretty well taking care of itself, of finding ways to make things happen," he said. "We've seen that over the years. The high school and the school facilities in this community are evidence of that."

Another positive, Madison said, was the high level of collaboration the community has shown in the past, including joint efforts between MPS, Southwest Minnesota State University, the city, YMCA, booster clubs and other activity and athletic groups.

"This could be a win-win opportunity," Marshall Schools Superintendent Klint Willert said. "But we won't know until we explore it further."

Board chairman Jeff Chapman asked Madison whether the field complex would still happen regardless of the Nov. 8 vote. Madison replied that the development was "contingent on the (Amateur Sports Center) vote passing."

While Madison said he was there to facilitate a discussion, he did admit that he felt it would be a "great improvement to the city."

The board also had a discussion on the district scorecard, especially concerning the far-reaching target goal previously set in regards to spring to spring growth targets in math and reading on the Northwest Evaluation Association (NWEA) tests. After speaking with NWEA representatives, Willert said he learned that an 85 percent target would put the district in the very top tier in the country. In fact, he said, the NWEA rep only knew of one school that had attained that percentile.

"They told me anything north of 60 percent would put us in the top 84th percentile in the country," Willert said. "So there has to be some changes in language. We have to make sure the goal is attainable but continues to stretch us as we have."

The best measure the district could go by, Willert said, "is multiple measures."

After hearing about the flexible learning year renewal timeline, board members also discussed the Race to the Top grant application. MPS is part of the Buffalo Ridge Educational Alliance, a consortium made up of six school districts, which is in the process of applying for the grant worth between $10-22 million.

Race to the Top encourages educators to move beyond the traditional method of learning. In addition to individual learning plans for every child, students would also have 21st century skills incorporated into the curriculum. The grant deadline is Oct. 30.

"This is an opportunity to move us as a school system to a 1-to-1 initiative," Willert said.



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