Miller Park on schedule, but costs are rising

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Castle Rock’s biggest park-construction project ever, a 237-acre plot that includes amenities expected to be a regional draw — such things as a 50,000-square-foot fieldhouse, a pool, miles of hiking, outdoor amphitheater for 2,000 people, a pond and a building for weddings and meetings — is on schedule since its June groundbreaking, officials say.

About 40 acres at Philip S. Miller Park have been scraped and shaped, water and sewer lines soon will go in — all in all, about 220,000 cubic yards of dirt have been moved, project superintendent Brian Peterson said July 18. But there are other things to be moved.

Moving around some money was the issue being talked about at the July 16 Castle Rock City Council meeting.

Unexpected costs because of unstable soil issues and rising construction costs may end up adding about $4.4 million to the Philip S. Miller Park’s $20 million Phase 1, town parks director Rob Hanna told the council.

It’s possible that bids for the final portion of the park’s Phase 1 could come in lower, causing a smaller increase, but town staff said they wanted direction from the town council on whether to proceed as planned, in light of the additional costs.

The council’s consensus, after hearing recommendations from the town manager, the parks commission and business leaders to proceed, is to proceed with getting bids, seeing what the numbers are and then making decisions about which reserve funds to take the money from, if need be.

Town Manager Mark Stevens said the increase in the cost estimates “is significant, there’s no denying that.”

Stevens said the town, with its healthy reserve funds and other options, can easily handle the extra cost. “We’re in the position to do that.” And if the full cost of the project had been known during the initial budgeting six months ago, Stevens said he would have suggested taking money out of transportation and wastewater reserve funds, anyway — a justifiable approach because of the significant road-building and extension of water lines for this park.

“This is a great project,” Castle Rock Mayor Paul Donahue said at one point. “I think it would be a mistake if we cut back the scope.” Donahue referred to the recent community survey that indicated the high importance residents place on adding parks and recreational opportunities.

Councilmember Jennifer Green expressed interest in discussing at the next meeting the possibility of creating more phases and spreading the cost, and Councilmember Joe Procopio said he was interested in looking at cost-cutting measures, including maybe putting in natural turf instead of artificial turf on fields.

Currently, Phase 1, originally costing $20 million, is broken into the three contract packages. The first two contracts have already been approved by the council, and mainly involve grading, utilities and foundation work. The third contract package, which the town now has approved to get bids on, includes amenities such as the fieldhouse, pool, athletic fields, trails, parking, amphitheater and millhouse meeting house.

Additional future phases that would add ballfields and other amenities were expected to bring the park’s total cost to about $30 million. It’s hoped some private fundraising will help with some of the cost. 

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