Richfield STEM School gets $125,000 for playground, baseball field gets nothing

What kind of playground does $125,000 buy?

“A pretty darn good one,” said Jodi Olson, president of the Parent-Teacher Organization for the Richfield Science Technology Engineering and Math School. She was giddy last week upon hearing the news that the STEM School was awarded a grant for that amount from the Hennepin County Youth Sports Program, a fund derived from revenue generated by the Minnesota Twins ballpark.

The sum is the total amount requested in the application, although the grant writers were not expecting a full award. “I was thinking if we got $10,000 we’d be so excited,” Olson said, adding that she and the other mothers involved “had never done anything like this before.”

The PTO submitted the grant application for a new playground last month due to changes in the grade level at the school. The building used to house fourth- through fifth-graders, but is now a kindergarten through fifth-grade school, and the existing playground equipment, though deemed safe, was not appropriate for the younger students, Olson said.

Three contractors are being considered for the new playground which will go up while the existing one, which Olson said is 18-years-old, remains standing. Delano-based landscape structures; Xccent Play, based in Wyoming, Minn., and Flanagan Sales out of St. Paul, will each meet with the PTO as the organization narrows its decision. They hope to present two final designs for students to vote on, Olson said.

When the Richfield School Board approved the grant application last month, terms were that the STEM School PTO would contribute $65,000 to the project, with the district using Health and Safety funding to contribute $60,000 for the playground’s soft synthetic surface area. The district’s contribution is still the plan, but as for the PTO’s $65,000, “we’ll see,” Olson said. The PTO has $40,000 in the bank.

The stipulated amount may not be necessary for a project that Olson expects to cost $200,000 total. The PTO hopes to have the 64-foot by 75-foot playground built next summer.

The recent round of grants from the youth sports program to communities throughout the Twin Cities totaled $2.1 million. In addition to the STEM School grant, $560 is to be spread across various locations in Richfield for purposes including lacrosse goals.


Nothing for baseball field

Not included in Hennepin County Youth Sports Program grants was money for further renovation of the Richfield High School baseball field. Richfield’s Dugout Club submitted a grant last month for $264,600. While the full amount requested was not expected, Richfield Athletic Director Todd Olson said he expected the application to result in at least some funding.

It was hoped that some grant funding would have helped pay for lights that have already been erected at the stadium, and possibly for the next phase in ongoing renovation. Those plans include a storage garage, batting cage, bullpen, windscreens and foul poles — features that would come on top of the substantially complete renovation project, which includes a new press box, improved handicapped accessibility, new bleachers, dugout roofs and the lights.