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BSC to get green makeover

The Bielenberg Sports Center is set to get a green makeover.

The Woodbury City Council voted Wednesday, July 8 to approve a contract with mechanical systems installer Harris Companies to complete a project that will give the municipal ice arena an upgrade to its HVAC system as well as a host of other energy efficiency improvements that are expected save the city more than $3.2 million in energy savings over the next 20 years.

City officials have been discussing the possibility of making energy systems improvements to the ice arena since 2004, but until recently decided to hold off on undergoing any upgrades.

This spring the city was notified that it was to received up to $500,000 in federal stimulus funding to use toward projects with an emphasis on fossil fuel reduction and/or energy consumption reduction.

The city plans to use the $500,000 in federal energy conservation block grant funding along with a debt issuance of $1.6 million and a $285,000 from a closed debt transfer to pay for the $2.36 million project, which along with installing a new, longer-lasting and more energy-efficient HVAC system, will convert the existing, conventional refrigeration system to a geo thermal system. The new system is expected to save millions of gallons of water used at the arena, Gridley said.

The improvements to the HVAC system will require less maintenance to the system over the long haul, reducing staff time costs, Gridley added.

Other planned improvements include a new, energy efficient bleacher heating system for the west rink. The heating for the bleachers would no longer come from the ceiling, but under the bleachers, said city administrator Clint Gridley when summarizing the project for council members at their July 8 meeting.

"This project really is in line with some of our sustainability goals and works out very well from an energy consumption standpoint," Gridley told the council.

The improvements are expected to begin on the arena starting next month and will conclude at the end of this year, Gridley said.

The city expects to pay back the bonds it will issue for the project over 10 years as a result of the energy consumption reduction at the arena, a city staff report on the project stated.

Although the council's vote essentially approves the contract between the city and St. Paul-based Harris Companies, the council instructed Woodbury city attorney Mark Vierling to continue to work out the details of the contract with the company. The language of the contract guarantees the improvements will produce energy savings for the city or the contractor will reimburse the city.

The city began contract discussions with Harris Companies on the improvements to the BSC after city staff spent some time researching other arenas that had undergone energy-efficiency improvements.

Harris Companies has undertaken two similar projects for the cities of St. Cloud, for the Municipal Athletic Complex arena, and Eagan for the Civic Center arena.

New field house, third rink around the corner?

For the last few years the city has been planning for the future expansion of the Bielenberg Sports Center, which includes a proposed future installation of a third sheet of indoor ice and a new, permanent replacement for the existing seasonal field house, commonly referred to as the bubble.

Gridley told council members last week that the city would most likely not move forward with plans for a third sheet of ice and a permanent field house until 2014, and that the recently improved energy-efficient improvements to the sports center will help hold replacement of the existing field house over for another 4-5 years.