Civic Center to be looked at for school sports facility

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With CNH Industrial notifying the City of Benson that it is likely to move out of the north end of the Civic Center this fall, the possibility the space could be available for the Benson High School gymnastics program and other sports is now under discussion.

District 777’s Board of Education voted unanimously Monday night to have architect Paul Youngquist, of Architects Rego + Youngquist of St. Louis Park, do an assessment of the 14,000-square-foot space.

They want an estimate of what it would cost to renovate the space for high school athletics use and an estimate on what the annual operating cost of the building would be for the district.

School board members were faced with looking for new space for the gymnastics program this past year when Benson’s City Council announced it would likely be renovating the Armory for use as a new city hall. The gymnastics program leases the gym space in the Armory.

The school board searched, without success this past spring, for an alternate site for the gymnastics program.

However, even though considerable work went into assessing the structural integrity of the 1927 building, and exterior and interior drawings of what it could look like as a new city hall have been completed, the Benson council put the project on hold indefinitely.

The $2.5 million cost was more than the city council wanted to take on at this time.

Despite the Armory still being available for gymnastics, the school board believes it is only a matter of time before the city moves ahead with the project and it is again looking to rent, or build, a new facility.

Further, the Amory’s 6,900-square-foot gym space is too small, perhaps dangerously too small, for the gymnastics program. The new design proposed for using the Armory for city hall cuts well into the gym space that the gymnastics program now uses.

If even the smallest space were removed from the Armory that is currently used for gymnastics, there would be problems with the space needed around each apparatus and where the spectators sit, Supt. Dennis Laumeyer told the school board in February.

Gymnastics Coach Kathy Ahrndt has said that the school is likely already in violation of safety codes because of the cramped space in the Amory. She has also said that other teams wouldn’t come to Benson to compete in a smaller space.

Laumeyer said in February that he wouldn’t feel comfortable putting the gymnastics program in the Armory with any less square footage than it currently has. “I watch and see girls just about to the wall and it freaks me out every time,” he said.

Members of the school board Monday night also said that it sees the Civic Center space allowing other sports such as tennis, baseball and softball to have an indoor practice area as well....


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