School Board Approves Bids for DMPS Community Stadium at Drake University

Major Step in a Multi-Million Dollar Upgrade to Athletic Facilities . . .

DMPS Community Stadium Concourse

A view of the concourse of the DMPS Community Stadium at Drake University.

The Des Moines School Board voted tonight to accept bids on the DMPS Community Stadium at Drake University, clearing the way to begin construction on a new venue that will serve both high school and college athletes. The stadium is a major part of a multi-million-dollar, district-wide initiative to upgrade athletics facilities.

“The new stadium is one step of many that we are taking to upgrade DMPS athletic facilities for our students and the community,” said Dwana Bradley, chair of the Des Moines School Board. “When completed the stadium will provide our students with the first-class facility they deserve and a venue as good as any of its kind in Iowa.”

DMPS Community Stadium Football Field

The view from the playing field of the DMPS Community Stadium at Drake University.

The bids approved by the Board will build the DMPS Community Stadium at Drake University as a 4,000-seat venue located to the east of the Knapp Center on the campus of Drake University. The new stadium will be used by high school football and soccer programs, other high school activities ranging from marching band festivals to rugby matches, as well as middle school activities. The stadium will also be the new on-campus home field for the Drake Bulldogs men’s and women’s soccer teams.

“This project is an exciting addition to a century-long partnership between Des Moines Public Schools and Drake University,” added Dr. Thomas Ahart, superintendent of DMPS. “This facility is a much-needed addition to both of our institutions as well as a new destination for our entire community to enjoy.”

DMPS Community Stadium Entrance Plaza

The entrance plaza of the DMPS Community Stadium at Drake University.

Construction on the stadium will begin this spring with projected completion in the fall of 2023. A groundbreaking ceremony will be schedule for the near future.

When the stadium was first proposed in November 2019 it had a budget of $19.5 million, with DMPS providing $15 million from revenue (SAVE funds) specifically dedicated for facilities and Drake contributing $4.5 million. Drake also will provide daily operations and maintenance of the stadium, at no cost to DMPS, and has donated the land for the stadium to the school district, valued at $2.5 million.

Only a few months after DMPS and Drake announced the project, the global COVID-19 pandemic upended supply chains and sent construction and building material costs skyrocketing. As a result, the first round of bids was rejected in February 2021 for being significantly over budget. After some value engineering a second set of bids was issued but, with material costs remained high, and the second bids were rejected in June 2021. Taking a new approach by issuing bids in several smaller packages, the responses received in February 2022 allowed the School Board to take action. Between the time the project was announced in November 2019 and the beginning of 2022, inflation caused a 9.3% or a $1.39 million increase to the school district’s $15 million share of the project.

The bids approved by the School Board are approximately $1 million above the original budget. This difference will be made up by using a portion of currently unallocated SAVE funds. These funds were available because of the ability to use federal ESSER funds for some facility needs during the pandemic, for which SAVE funding had previously been allocated.

Drake has agreed to increase its fundraising to the project beyond its prior commitment of $4.5 million to help cover the higher overall cost.

“We look forward to welcoming DMPS students and family members to the DMPS Community Stadium at Drake in the fall of 2023,” said Drake University President Marty Martin. “This will be a collegiate-level venue that will benefit generations of DMPS and Drake student athletes and the communities that support them.”

In addition to approving bids for the stadium, the School Board also received an update on work underway as a result of the Athletic Facilities Committee recommendation, an effort begun in May 2020 to review athletic facility needs at all five high school campuses and develop plans for improvements.

“The new stadium is an exciting and much-needed project that is a beginning, not an end, in our work to improve venues for our student-athletes,” noted Teree Caldwell-Johnson, vice chair of the Des Moines School Board. “Since the sales tax for school facilities was first established our focus has been on our school buildings, especially academics and the arts. Now it’s time to give more attention to other activities and athletics.”

At this time the school district is investing more than $13 million on projects recently completed, in-progress, and on the drawing board.

Projects include improvements to Williams Stadium and the baseball/softball complex at East High School; renovated locker rooms, a new track, and baseball/softball upgrades at Hoover High School; a new wrestling practice facility, baseball/softball upgrades, and a new track at Lincoln High School; a dedicated wrestling room, renovated weight room, and multi-sport conditioning space at North High School; and a new gymnasium floor, improved track and synthetic turf practice field, and swimming pool upgrades at Roosevelt High School.