Ice rink planned for Lion’s Field

MARQUETTE – Marquette Township will use a $100,000 Marquette County Community Fund grant from Cliffs Natural Resources and the Eagle Mine to build an outdoor ice rink and warming house at Lion’s Field. The 150 by 70 foot concrete slab will serve a dual purpose as it will also be a roller hockey rink in the summer.

Township Planner and Zoning Administrator Jason McCarthy said completion is expected by this winter.

“But the hinge point of all this is we vacated a one-block section of Erie Avenue,” McCarthy said. “Basically you have a kiddie park on one side of the street and the ball field on the other side of the street, so we have a right-of-way that bisects two pieces of township-owned park. And so we want to make that a contiguous property.”

That process is taking time, he said.

“Because it’s in a platted area, we have to wait for the attorney general to sign off on it,” McCarthy said. “But once it’s done, we’ll remove the asphalt from that area…so we have more room to develop more uses in the park, but also to create additional safety for kids.”

Once the township receives official documentation from the state for the road abandonment, they hope to enclose the entire park and also add play equipment for children, additional parking spaces, a walking path, benches, outdoor grills and a half basketball court. Hockey boards will also be installed around the concrete slab, McCarthy said, and the warming house will have vending machines, restrooms and space for maintenance equipment.

The additions are based on a Lions Field recreation area master plan commissioned in 2013 from Upper Peninsula Engineers and Architects based on input from the township recreation committee and supported by the planning commission and township board.

“Fifty-six percent of the township population, which is about 3,905 (people) as of the 2010 census, live in that one square mile platted section,” McCarthy said. “A lot of times park developments now are built on the periphery or somewhere you have to travel, so this is a special place in my opinion because you have a traditional historic park property that is seeing some renovation.”

The 2.5-acre neighborhood park currently functions as the Township’s main recreation and gathering area. The park contains a ball field, tennis court, open-air pavilion with picnic tables, restroom facilities and playground. Lions Field has seen considerable upgrades in recent years, such as new fencing, a new infield dirt fill, enclosed dugouts and a batting cage. The pavilion was also upgraded and landscaping enhancements were added with the help of volunteers and local retailers and service groups.

Township officials hope the rink will also be constructed by volunteers, McCarthy said.

“We have a strong volunteer base in the township that we’re currently enjoying,” McCarthy said. “Most projects in recent years recreation-wise have been accomplished with help from local volunteers and businesses.”

He said the township thanks the numerous volunteers who have served on committees, contributed funding or helped with construction and maintenance.

“Certainly without their support and contributions and the Marquette County Community Grant program, we wouldn’t be able to move this project at the accelerated pace we are,” he said.

“Township staff also thanks the Marquette Township Fire Department for their long-term historic maintenance of the park and is looking forward to continued partnership between volunteers and the fire department.”

Cliffs and Eagle officials announced the allocation of 13 grants in May – including the money for Marquette Township – which totaled more than $1 million from the joint charitable fund maintained by the two mining companies.

Individual grants ranged from $3,500 to $200,000. The allocations were the second round of grant approvals from the fund, which was created in August of 2012 as the result of a business transaction between the two companies. The fund was initially capitalized at $4 million. The purpose of the fund is to provide grant funding to community-focused projects in Marquette County.

A four-person funding committee composed of two individuals representing Cliffs and two individuals representing the Eagle Mine reviews grant applications and makes funding decisions twice each year.

The fund is scheduled to terminate when all of its assets have been expended, which is expected to be within five years of the fund’s establishment. So far, more than $2.2 million has been earmarked for community projects and programs in Marquette County.

Mary Wardell can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 248.