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Bielenberg usage up in 2010, expansion on the horizon

The year 2014 can't come soon enough for Bielenberg Sports Center Manager Dave Black -- after all it'll be the year the center will likely get a major facelift.

At Wednesday's Woodbury City Council workshop meeting, Black explained the need for additional locker room space, and field house turf and dome remodeling.

The meeting highlighted Bielenberg's operations for the year 2010 as well as potential improvements and plans to expand the facility in 2014.

The council has not officially voted on a construction plan, but over the last few months, members have discussed options with city staff and some of the stakeholders involved.

In 2010, Bielenberg usage increased because more outdoor sports like soccer, lacrosse and football used the field house during the off-seasons.

Additionally, primary users of the two ice rinks - Woodbury Area Hockey Club, Woodbury Athletic Association, East Ridge Athletic Association and the Woodbury Figure Skating Club - are filling up ice time.

"It took our weekday ice time into a tizzy," Black said.

One of the major issues brought up is the need for a third ice sheet to accommodate the growing number of users.

"Quite frankly, I'll believe the third rink when I see it," said John Erickson, who spoke on behalf of the booster clubs.

According to the plan presented to the council last week, an outdoor refrigerated ice sheet is more cost effective, at $371,315, than an indoor rink that would cost millions.

Parks and Recreation Supervisor Bob Klatt said if constructed properly, it would divert some of that overused ice time outdoors.

"If we design it right, it can be a really unique area," Klatt said.

The proposal also includes expansion of locker room space, replacing the field house's artificial turf, - which has a 15-year life expectancy and was replaced in 2000 - and replacing the bubble. The entire project would cost $16.2 million.

"The proposal is to do this all at once," Klatt said, adding that it would give the city more bang for its buck.

But Erickson said something needs to be done to resolve the lack of locker room space.

Currently, two multi-use rooms at Bielenberg house cage lockers for the hockey clubs to store their equipment. But once they're done with practice or games, the rooms are assigned for skaters and youth hockey as well.

Erickson explained that equipment gets damaged and is not respected by others who often share the space.

"We don't want to wait until 2014," he said. "Our interest is to move ahead sooner."

District 833 would be footing the bill for some of the additional locker room costs while the hockey booster clubs would take on the rest, according to the plan. The proposal mirrors the city of Cottage Grove's deal with District 833.

Erickson said the fundraising group is prepared to pay for locker rooms now to get them ready for the next hockey season.

But Council member Paul Rebholz said breaking up the expansion and remodeling process would be cumbersome.

"It's not a question of whether there is money available to build the rooms. It's a question of when to build them," Black added.

He said waiting to build has some merits from a practical standpoint, but building now would eliminate some maneuvering required on a daily basis.

Going elsewhere

The number of players on the ice more than doubled since 1999, said Dan Fronek, who also spoke on behalf of the Woodbury Area Hockey Club.

He said a third of the players are forced to use other facilities in neighboring cities like Hudson and others go as far as River Falls, because Bielenberg is already crammed with players.

In a couple of years, players who go elsewhere will make that number jump to 50 percent, he added.

Though Klatt and the Parks and Recreation Commission are studying the proposal and analyzing plans, Rebholz suggested a group of stakeholders involved should also weigh in to "find the different pieces of the puzzle."

"There is maybe a little bit of value that we're giving people the opportunity to weigh in, in a very formal way," he added.

Mayor Mary Guiliani Stephens agreed and the council decided it would be beneficial to have an open meeting for further public input on the expansion project.

The council will also discuss a more detailed proposal at its Sept. 21 workshop meeting.

Riham Feshir
Riham Feshir is a reporter and photographer for the Woodbury Bulletin. Her coverage includes Woodbury City Hall, Washington County Board of Commissioners and business news.  Follow Riham on Twitter @RihamFeshir for the latest updates.