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$15 million expansion with no ice sheet?

A third indoor ice sheet may be a bit of a stretch and too expensive to be included in plans for the Bielenberg Sports Center expansion.

But a local youth hockey club says it would serve a growing community that will otherwise continue to seek ice time elsewhere.

Now that a 14-person task force has been formed to come up with a design plan for a newly remodeled Bielenberg Sports Center, youth hockey fans are hoping a third ice sheet will gain some support.

Pete Stuckert, president of the Woodbury Area Hockey Club and a member of the task force, said the original master plan included another indoor ice sheet, but it somehow disappeared two years later.

"Somewhere along the process, that indoor sheet was dropped off the plans," he said, adding, "and now it's not even being considered at this point."

The Woodbury Area Hockey Club currently has 1,100 players who will have used a total of 3,000 hours of ice in the year 2011-12.

The club rents about 1,700 hours of ice from the city of Woodbury at Bielenberg Sports Center. It has an agreement with Harding Ice Arena in St. Paul for 1,000 hours, while traveling to Cottage Grove, Hudson and other nearby cities for the remaining ice time.

"A good percentage of our ice needs are not met in Woodbury itself," Stuckert said.

But city officials say the main focus of the Bielenberg project will be to fix the field house and the aging dome, while expanding the lobby and food service areas.

Parks and Recreations Director Bob Klatt said the demand is not high enough to add a third indoor ice sheet that would cost at least $6 million to construct.

"We don't have funding available to do a fully enclosed ice sheet," he said.

Additionally, the cost to operate an indoor ice sheet is expensive and would add a significant amount to the center's operating budget.

The city doesn't want to see an "overbuilding" of ice sheets in the metro area either, Klatt said.

"There are arenas right now that have available hours," he added.

Klatt said it was always in the plan to accommodate a third sheet, however, it's not a top priority.

"The primary component is to replace the existing field house with a permanent building and to expand and remodel the lobby area," Klatt said. "Those are really the key components to the project right now."

With the city growing and hockey teams attracting more members, Stuckert said it would make sense to add the third ice sheet with the rest of the remodeling.

"What's our ice picture look like in five years or 10 years?" he asked.

The Woodbury Area Hockey Club has been helping the city pay its debt for the east rink at Bielenberg, making annual payments that would total $250,000 this year.

In return, the city has guaranteed at least 1,700 hours of ice time for the club.

Even with the club's contribution, Stuckert said it doesn't seem like it's enough for the club to garner support for an indoor ice sheet.

"A lot of people in our club would say that hockey is being looked at differently by (Woodbury City) Council when it comes to facility usage," he said. "We've consistently seen our ice rental rates go up."

So far discussions with city officials cited expense and low demand for a third indoor sheet as reasons why it's not considered a priority, Stuckert said.

It may look like there is no demand because the club is renting elsewhere, he added.

"We can easily spend that in Woodbury," Stuckert said. "It all depends on how you look at it and who you're talking to as to what their opinions are."

The task force - which consists of Woodbury Mayor Mary Giuliani Stephens and Council member Amy Scoggins, along with members of the local athletic associations and citizens with no specific representation - will have its first meeting Feb. 16.

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.