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April 17th, 2013

ILA amendment vote highlights strong use of MAST Academy field

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 ey Biscayne has been making good use of the new MAST Academy playing field that opened last fall, and even more options await as the Village and Miami-Dade School District continue plans to expand the facility to accommodate not only soccer and baseball, but football.
The Village and Miami-Dade County Public School District entered into an Interlocal Agreement in July 2012 to share the $23 million cost of upgrades to the Key Biscayne K-8 Center, a new school for local students in grades 6-12 at the MAST campus, and the joint-use playing field.
On Tuesday, April 8, Village Council members agreed to an amendment to the ILA related to the field funding, and in doing so discussed how important the facility has become to local youth and adult athletic programs that compete for space in land-strapped Key Biscayne.
“It might have been an untenable situation without the MAST field. Now, we’re managing,” as Mayor Frank Caplan put it. “We still need field inventory. This helps a lot, but we’re not done.”
Indeed, Parks and Recreation Director Todd Hofferberth said he still isn’t accepting new sports startups, but has been able to ease overuse of the Village Green and other fields in the community by moving several programs to MAST, which has artificial turf to prevent wear-and-tear concerns and also boasts lights so teams can use the facility after dark.
“Every opportunity we have to move somebody from the Village Green to the MAST Academy field, we do so,” Hofferberth said, listing field hockey and youth and adult soccer as some of the programs how headquartered at the Virginia Key school.
Hofferberth added the shared-use agreement with the district has been “fantastic” for the Village: Key Biscayne gets to use the field all day on Saturdays and Sundays, and has access after 5:30 p.m. every day during the school week.
According to Hofferberth, he may even be able to expand programs in the near future due to the field. He noted decisions on which sports get field time are based on a priority list created by the Youth Athletics Advisory Board: youth recreational activities get first dibs, followed by youth competitive sports and then travel leagues, and then adult programming.
Council member Mayra Pena Lindsay urged officials to consider girls sports when allocating space, noting youth girls teams seem to have great success when they are given ample field time.
No matter who is using the MAST field, officials expect it to get even better in the future.
Village Manager John Gilbert explained once portable classrooms at MAST are removed when the new school for Key Biscayne kids opens next year, space will be available to expand the field to a regulation football field. Crews will also build a concession stand and storage building.
All of that relates to the item on the Council’s April 8 agenda: an amendment to the ILA.
Village Financial Adviser Lourdes Abadin said the amendment specifies how the school district will repay the Village, which agreed to borrow the money for the project due to the district’s lack of borrowing capacity at the time. A massive $1.2 billion school district general obligation bond issue, approved by voters in November 2012, gave the district more spending flexibility, allowing it to repay the Village more quickly than originally expected.
Under the new amendment, she said, the district will pay the Village $2 million of $3.75 million the Village borrowed as part of the first phase of project financing.
According to Abadin, the $2 million is paying for school district-funded upgrades to the K-8 Center, and the remaining $1.75 million will be repaid as follows: $1.265 million will be applied to playing field enhancements requested by Key Biscayne, and the remaining $485,000 will be applied to the Village’s half of the construction of the school building.
Gilbert said the enhancements include the artificial turf, lighting and field expansion: “What we asked for came to that figure,” he explained.
The Manager added the school board has already approved the ILA amendment, and he was recommending that the Council do so as well, and quickly: after local leaders passed the change on first reading last week, the Manager said the final vote will be April 22.
Gilbert said the amendment closes out phase one of the ILA – the field – and allows focus to fully shift to phase two, the actual construction of the school building. The Manager said he will come back to the Council soon with more information and for action on that project.
Caplan said he thinks his colleagues will like what they see based on previews he’s been shown of the design. “We’re going to be pleased with the architectural project that’s going to commence,” he said. “It’s pretty cool.”

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