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Dome withstood storm, but future holds questions

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Dome withstood storm, but future holds questions
Woodbury Minnesota 8420 City Centre Drive 55125

The Bielenberg Sports Center's dome measures just a fraction of the space at the Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome.

That doesn't mean the 15-year-old structure is any less precious to Woodbury - and parts beyond.


"It's turned into something very popular for many communities," said Dave Black, ice arena manager at Bielenberg Sports Center.

So when last month's record snowstorm began dropping enough snow to eventually collapse the Metrodome's roof, Black and his staff were already prepared in Woodbury.

Black said the Bielenberg dome weathered the storm without much incident, save "a little bit of wear and tear" to surrounding apparatuses due to snowmelt.

"Nothing significant," he said of the snow event at the dome. "I feel very fortunate."

Once the forecast spelled out the looming storm and its potential, he ordered the dome's thermostat to climb to 65 degrees - some 15 degrees higher than normal.

Staff continued monitoring the situation as the snow fell, Black said. When the white stuff began to taper off, the thermostat went back down to alleviate water-related issues, he said.

He closed the dome the following Sunday as a precautionary measure while city crews continued snow removal around the dome.

"I just felt it was the right move," Black said.

The storm is also blamed for the collapse of another sports-center dome in Vadnais Heights.

Black credited the dome's unique features and geographical location as other reasons for its hardiness - not just during the December storm, but other weather events over the years.

An aging dome

Standing just 55 feet tall, the Bielenberg dome has a low profile, relative to similar domes that reach between 75 and 90 feet, Black explained. The dome is also in a low-lying area, which reduces its exposure during high winds, he said.

Those characteristics have served the facility well for years, but its tenure may be nearing its end.

"The dome is showing its age," Black said.

Opened in September 1995, the dome has now outlived its 15-year life expectancy. Black said preliminary plans could be drawn up within a year for a replacement project.

Right now it's "too soon" to say what that plan might be, but Black said it could involve anything from an exact replacement, to a larger dome, to a more conventional field house building.

Woodbury City Council member Paul Rebholz said the council is "very aware" of the dome's condition and will continue discussions about its future this year.

"The Bielenberg Sports Center is a huge community asset," Rebholz said. "We don't want to end up in a reactive mode."

Mike Longaecker
Mike Longaecker is the regional public safety reporter for RiverTown Multimedia. His coverage area spans St. Croix and Pierce counties. Longaecker served from 2011-2015 as editor of the Woodbury Bulletin. A University of Wisconsin-River Falls graduate, Longaecker previously reported for the Red Wing Republican Eagle and for the Forum Communications Minnesota Capitol Bureau. You can follow him on Twitter at @Longaecker
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