HURON — Alleys adjacent to and under - yes under - the Huron Arena would be vacated if petitions filed with the city by the Huron School Board receive final approval in February.
School officials, in particular, want the east-west alley, directly on the south side of the building between Illinois and Wisconsin Avenues, to be vacated for safety reasons.
If the City Commission approves the petitions, the school board wants to reconfigure the parking lot to improve safety. An asphalt overlay is also scheduled for this summer, school business manager Kelly Christopherson said.
Security cameras positioned on the Arena capture just how much vehicle traffic there is in the alley. Rather than heading to the next block, drivers take the alley instead.
“It’s a shortcut because of closing Fifth Street with the Event Center,” Christopherson said.“
It’s kind of dangerous because kids walk out the back door and are immediately in the line of traffic,” he said.
The district plans to hire an engineer to prepare plans to reconfigure the parking lot. Hopefully, no parking spaces are lost, he said.
The narrow sidewalk along the south side of the Arena will be widened and the entrances/exits off Illinois and Wisconsin avenues will be replaced with curb and gutter.
There will still be two other entrances/exits on the south side and at the southwest corner.
The parking lot was once gravel, but was paved in 2005 to support the new Huron Event Center when it opened in the fall of that year.
The school district first approached the city last month with a request to vacate the east-west alley.
“As I was doing research to confirm the legal description for the east-west alley, I was looking for documents related to alley vacations for the block,” said City Planner Ralph Borkowski.
City plats show both the east-west and north-south alleys, and he knew there should have been vacation documents for the north-south alley, which partially runs under the Arena, but did not find them. The Arena was completed in 1950.
“So that tells me that the north-south alley, though it’s obviously been abandoned, was never officially legally vacated,” Borkowski said.
Christopherson was then asked to submit a new alley vacation petition for the north-south alley.
City staff recommended approval of the petitions. There will continue to be a utility easement there for NorthWestern Energy and Century Link, and the school district will be responsible to relocate utilities buried underneath the alley at its expense if it ever plans to build an addition to the Arena.
School district officials said there are no plans to do so.
Planning commissioners recommended approval of the petitions and the city will now proceed with both alley vacations in February.
City commissioners will likely consider first reading Feb. 4 and set a public hearing for Feb. 25.
The east-west alley is owned and maintained by the city and the parking lot is owned and maintained by the school district.
The plan is to do the asphalt overlay for the entire area at the same time so it all looks the same.
“Hopefully, they’ll be able to make the situation at the south doors of the Arena safer,” Borkowski said.
“Kelly’s point was that the young people, they come out of their practice and the first thing that they do is pull out their phones,” he said.
“And two steps out of the south door and they’re in the alley,” he said.