Politics & Government

$300,000 cost overrun at Stryker soccer complex? Blame it on the rain

Note: this story has been updated from an earlier version to correct field dimensions.

Wet weather has added $300,000 to the final price tag for an indoor soccer field at Stryker Sports Complex.

The $9 million metal building is part of a larger project underway to also replace grass fields with artificial turf at the city-owned and privately managed soccer center north of K-96 and Greenwich Road.

The Wichita City Council approved the additional $300,000 building expense last week on its consent agenda, a list of city business items that are considered to be routine.

The Stryker project also includes lighting for all the fields and expanding the grandstand at the stadium where FC Wichita, a semipro soccer team, plays its home games.

The city had initially planned to have improvements to Stryker completed by early February.

But after the walls went up around the indoor facility — and before the roof was put on — heavy rains soaked the building and turned what was to be the indoor field into a wet sloppy mess.

“We got an exceptional amount of rain this fall, and it’s a dirt floor inside there,” said Steve Degenhardt, the city’s construction manager. “The indoor facility having a flat surface — unlike the outdoor fields that are sloped for drainage — it just really gave that water no place to go. As you start to enclose that building, the soil inside there is not going to have the opportunity to dry out “

City Council member Becky Tuttle said she toured the site just after she was appointed in January to replace Pete Meitzner, who was elected to the Sedgwick County Commission.

“It was quite muddy when I went out there,” she said. “Oftentimes with projects like this when there are delays or different things that take us off our normal schedule, it’s because of weather. And that was the case with this project.”

The $300,000 solution was to muck out the mud and replace it with crushed recycled concrete, creating a dry and stable base to overlay with artificial turf.

The work is nearly completed and the indoor facility has been in use since early this month.

The city couldn’t just wait for the dirt to dry out because events and tournaments have already been scheduled for the spring start of soccer season, said Public Works Director Alan King.

The indoor facility has a 120-by-80 yard field. It’s used for youth and adult league play and available for rental for parties and corporate team-building exercises.

Overall, the improvements to the soccer complex will total $22 million. The project will still come in under that budget, which included a contingency fund of $925,000.

The project will be paid for with STAR bonds, a method of financing that diverts future sales tax income to pay back the debt on money borrowed to complete the upgrades.

Stryker was run as a city facility until September, when a divided City Council voted to privatize the operation.

It’s now run by Wichita Sports Forum, a privately owned indoor sports venue near Stryker.

Under the operating agreement, the Sports Forum will pay the city between $130,000 and $140,000 a year to lease the fields for the next 10 years, with options to renew five years at a time after that.

Sports Forum will keep the operating profits from the Stryker complex, including income from field rental, tournaments and youth leagues.

Senior Journalist Dion Lefler has been providing award-winning coverage of local government, politics and business in Wichita for 20 years. Dion hails from Los Angeles, where he worked for the LA Daily News, the Pasadena Star-News and other papers. He’s a father of twins, director of lay servant ministries in the United Methodist Church and plays second base for the Old Cowtown vintage baseball team.