Wayne rugby field to transform into apartment, lake development

Aubreanna Miller, Editor-in-Chief

A mere eight blocks from the Wayne State College campus, a beloved field will transform into something entirely new.  

The City of Wayne has broken the ground on construction of the rugby field located at East Fourth and Jaxon Streets and the nearby area. The Prairie Park project, when completed, will provide the community with brand-new apartments, a new park, an extension of the trail and a recreational lake.  

According to minutes from a City Council meeting in November of 2022, the city put out bids for the project back in 2021 using a request for proposal process.  

Two companies, Heritage Homes, a local company which sells pre-built homes, and R. Perry Construction from Sioux City, Iowa, stood out from the rest. Ultimately, R. Perry came out on top with the better offer. 

Since the City of Wayne owned the land, they decided to sell the property to the contractors for $1, according to Luke Virgil, director of the Wayne Area Economic Development. However, many community members opposed this. Over the summer of 2022, a petition, headed by previous mayoral candidate B.J. Woehler, circulated and attempted to stop the sale.  

Woehler and others thought the city should not sell the land at such a low price and should hire a Wayne construction company to build the apartments instead. Woehler co-owns a Wayne based construction company known as R & W Construction. 

Without enough signatures, the Bradley J. Woehler and Bradley F. Roberts vs. City of Wayne litigation matter failed, and the transaction moved forward. But the City Council did listen to the concerns brought forth and raised the purchase price to $100,000.  

The company hopes to start taking rental applications this March, with the apartment structure finished by the end of this year, Virgil said.  

Along with the apartments, the area will undergo construction of a lake, according to City Administrator Wes Blecke.  

This lake will be sourced using a well and requires a separate contract with the company. To pay for the venture, the city has approved R. Perry to use an economic incentive called Tax Increment Financing, Blecke said.  

Moving dirt, creating roadways, implementing water and sewer lines and creating the lake will occur in several phases. 

“[Phase 1] will include storm water management, moving a lot of dirt for storm water,” Blecke said. “[We are getting] the roadways, not calling them roads or streets they’re roadways or driveways, ready for gravel to be put on at this point.” 

The city does not want the construction to inhibit use of the nearby dog park, ball fields or existing walking trail over the summer, Blecke explained. They plan to work with residents to keep certain areas open and plan to make a temporary road to make travel easier.  

Around $1.9 to $2 million dollars will go into the preparation of the lake, not including the cost of the actual lake which has yet to be confirmed.  

For permanent roads and the addition of the trail, according to the City Council’s “1 & 6 Year Plan,” a request for funds was submitted to the Nebraska Department of Transportation (NDOT) in February to be eligible for about $645,000 in NDOT Highway Allocation funds. This request can be submitted annually.  

If awarded, not all the money will go to the Prairie Park Project, but this acts as one of the main focuses of the Council. Funds would also be distributed to storm sewer upgrades from the corner of Bomgaars to the Greenwood Cemetary.  

Though a forward step for the Wayne community, the Prairie Park Project and new apartments will erase some of the rich history and memories created at the rugby field. By Nov. 30 of 2022, WSC needed to remove all rugby equipment from the property. WSC rugby will now be played on the campus’ soccer field.  

The 22-acre complex, according to the WSC website, acted as one of the finest facilities in the Midwest. It featured two practice fields and a match pitch with a 1,500-person capacity.  

Construction of the project will start gaining momentum as the weather warms up in the spring, Virgil said.