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Planning Commission approves Bielenberg Sports Center expansion

The Bielenberg Sports Center expansion calls for an outdoor refrigerated ice rink, a 90,000 square foot field house and a larger lobby and food service area. Courtesy of the City of Woodbury

Although the city of Woodbury is funding a Bielenberg Sports Center expansion, the plans had to go before the city's Planning Commission last week.

Parks and Recreations Director Bob Klatt presented an application for site and building plan approval that the advisory commission approved Monday, Dec. 3.

Metal building

When the Bielenberg Sports Center first opened in 1995, it was after a referendum had passed a year earlier to construct the facility on an 80-acre site.

One ice sheet and a 30,000 square-foot artificial turf surface were built. Nothing fancy, but it was only the second dome in the metro area, Klatt said.

All the city could afford at the time were the basic materials. The entire building is made of metal and the dome has a limited lifespan. The whole thing cost $3.5 million.

A second ice sheet was added in 1998 to accommodate for a growing number of hockey players in the community. It was constructed with minimal heating and seating capabilities.

"We think it's time to upgrade that," Klatt said.

New plans

With $21.8 million on hand, the city plans to double the size of the field house, build a permanent structure, enhance the food service on a new upper level and fully equip the sports center with geothermal heating and cooling.

The new field house will have LED lighting, there will be a parks maintenance space for city workers to store field maintenance equipment and a new playground for children with disabilities.

An outdoor rink will also be added to the facility to give pleasure skaters a place to skate outside of the two indoor rinks.

A virtual tour of the Bielenberg Sports Center can be found at

The tour will show a fair amount of glass from the west side coming in to the field house, which will bring in plenty of natural light, Klatt said.

The expanded lobby will have concrete floors and the second floor will have skate tiles.

The outdoor rink will have a warming house and a viewing area from the inside as well.

Plans for the whopping 90,000 square-foot field house will allow for a full-size football field, soccer, lacrosse and baseball.

Additionally, the field house will have an area where caterers can prep food for serving at large events. A large garage will also have big enough doors for semi-trucks to back up to the structure and unload any equipment needed for big events.

The new field house will appeal to football groups with its 100 yards, as well as soccer and lacrosse players.

"Lacrosse will be a big user of this facility as it is a growing sport," Klatt said.

Big steel project

The city is currently in the construction document phase. City Council will hold a public hearing on the financing at 7:30 p.m., Wednesday, Dec. 12, at the council chambers.

Klatt said if everything goes as planned and bids come in as expected, construction will begin in April and will be an 11-month process.

Hockey rinks will not close during construction; however, entrance will be switched to the emergency exit doors.

"It will be a different experience," Klatt said, but added "skating lessons will go on."

Planning Commissioner Kay Hendrickson wondered if the geothermal and energy-efficient features will reduce the cost or break even.

Klatt said the city expects to receive between $140,000 and $180,000 in rebates for the improvements. The ice arenas currently have a geothermal system that has a 10-year payback.

He added that the new heat pumps are 30-year mechanical units that don't fail all that often.

"The cost of replacement is really, fairly minimal," Klatt said. "It's a good system and we look forward to expanding it in the field house."

The upgrades do not call for a parking lot expansion, Klatt said, prompting Commissioner Jim Edberg to say the current facility is already parking challenged.

Klatt said most of the issues are caused by scheduling conflicts especially during the Woodbury Community Expo.

A lot of different things are going on at that time, however, there are still plenty of spots available in the east parking lot, with room for 60 additional spots if an expansion is deemed necessary in the future, he added.

When it comes to events, the field house can accommodate banquets and gatherings as big as 300 attendees, Klatt said. But hosts will have to provide tables, chairs and catering.

"It's been done before, it would need to be a unique event," Klatt said.

The city is expecting operating revenues will grow from the current $1.2 million a year to $1.5 million to meet expenses associated with the expansion.

About $16 million of the expansion price tag will be funded from tax reallocation funds, and the rest will come from city reserves.

Klatt said the Bielenberg Sport Center is "one of the biggest steel projects in the metro coming this summer."

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.