Plans for DMPS community stadium delayed due to high construction costs

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DES MOINES, Iowa — Des Moines Public Schools hopes to build a $19 million field of dreams for the metro’s high school football and soccer teams, but the plans will remain as a blueprint for at least a year longer than expected.

The school board and superintendent voted on Tuesday to reject all of the construction bids for the stadium because they were all at least $1.3 million over budget. The field, which would be next to Drake University’s Knapp Center, is now not slated to open until at least the fall of 2023.

Superintendent Dr. Tom Ahart told the school board during Tuesday’s meeting that the high cost of construction materials during the pandemic is likely the largest factor. The school district is suspending the bidding process indefinitely until the construction costs come back to a reasonable level.

“We’re not saying that this goes away, and we’re not saying this is impossible,” said Des Moines School Board chair Dwana Bradley. “We’re just saying we’ve been dealt a challenge right now. I really think that this is a needed project.”

The stadium will also host Drake University’s soccer team if it is built.

Bradley said the school district has $15 million set aside for the stadium — Drake University will pay the remainder — and she is staunchly against spending any more than that on the project.

“It’s not fun watching things get pushed back, but we just want to make sure we’re doing what we said we would do,” Bradley said.

She admits it has been painful to watch suburban schools build new stadiums while their plans remain dormant, but she believes Des Moines Public Schools will eventually put shovels in the ground as well

“I’ve seen what the other districts have, and for me, that’s one of the reasons I had for voting for this,” Bradley said. “Having to stop and start, stop and start is frustrating, but knowing that we’re going to get there also makes it better.”

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