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Latest Bielenberg amenities aim for fire pit, all-inclusive playground

The preliminary designs of the all-inclusive playground also include a splash pad. Submitted photo

The biggest steel project in the Twin Cities this year will also have some major outdoor upgrades that include the largest accessible playground in the state, a pleasure skating rink with a fire pit and possibly a splash pad.

Bielenberg Sports Center, which will double in size on the inside by 2014, is proposed to have inviting greenery on the outside, hangout spots around the building and an outdoor rink to be used year-round.

"That's what we're trying to create, a cool environment," City Administrator Clint Gridley told Woodbury City Council members at a workshop Wednesday.

The council got a first look at those plans this week, where members recommended a few tweaks and asked for more feedback from a citizen task force on the splash pad.

The idea of the landscaping plan is to make it as aesthetically pleasing as possible and allow for users of the center to see what's going on outside, said John Slack of Stantec Consulting, the firm working with the city on the project.

The designs at the front door will "create a nice sense of arrival," he added, with lights that "bring another level of interest into the design."

That much didn't need any tweaking by the council, but when it came to the outdoor rink area, a large grass space on the south side wouldn't look too pretty in the winter, Council Member Paul Rebholz said.

"The grass around the carts on the golf course is a mess," he said, adding that this plan creates the same issue. "Half the year we have to think about it being muddy out there."

Parks and Recreation Director Bob Klatt said that's where snow will be piled so it's just on one side, leaving the north side free of snow for spectators.

"People walk through landscaping everywhere," Rebholz responded. "It's wherever they decide the trail should be."

The council recommended extending the patio from the fire pit down further on the south side of the rink to make more room for spectators where they'll most likely be hanging out near the fire and seating area.

The council also had concerns that the ice rink space may not be used in the summer time, however, Slack said it can be utilized for other sports like volleyball and basketball, or public events like movie showings and farmers markets with an opportunity to set up tables and tents.

"If it's programmed well, you can find willing and available partners," he said.

The rink will be surrounded by different color LED lights and equipped with speakers for music and movies, according to the designs.

"It's a very transparent environment," Slack said. "There is a lot of layers of ambience that can be created."

Playground, splash pad

Plans for the all-accessible playground dubbed "Madison's Place" have been in the works since 2009 when the Madison Claire Foundation was formed.

The city of Woodbury donated the land, while the foundation has been working to raise $850,000 to build the playground.

With about $350,000 to go and since the foundation was assured that groundbreaking is happening in April, the final phases of fundraising will be easier to accomplish, said Dave Millington, a member of the family foundation.

Designs call for a fully integrated accessible surface that resembles rubber matting similar to Lookout Ridge and Miracle Field.

"The surface is spendy, but there is a lot of value to it," Slack said.

He added that Madison's Place has the opportunity to become a regional attraction with visitors who've never used Bielenberg Sports Center making it a frequent hangout spot.

A splash pad, which wasn't part of the original citizen task force recommendation, was added to the design of the playground area as well.

It took some council members by surprise, while others felt indifferent about it.

One council member, however, has been advocating for a family-friendly water feature at the Bielenberg Sports Center since day one.

"I feel very, very, very strongly about the splash pad," Council Member Julie Ohs said. "It's a huge investment ... it's everybody's tax money, not just the athletes."

Council Member Amy Scoggins said every other large project done in the city is backed up by research, surveys and community feedback.

"If I have to say one way or another, I'm not sold on it," she said.

From personal experience as well, when she's taken her kids to similar spots they're only there for 20 minutes and they get bored, she said, adding that it doesn't appeal to older kids either.

The city currently has $500,000 allocated in the total project budget from the Park Dedication Fund for a water play feature and the design integrated into that play area on the south side of the field house, according to a council memo.

Council Member Christopher Burns said if the task force - a citizen group that reviewed plans for the expansion - wasn't excited about a splash pad, then the city can find somewhere else to use those funds.

The addition of the splash pad has the potential to attract more people to the complex, Slack said, based on his experience designing similar projects.

But he added the playground is the star of the show here.

"The highlight of this space really is the playground," Slack said. "You build it and in three or four years you'll hear about how popular it is and how much of a regional draw it is."

Millington said the water feature will make the playground a regional destination and help with the foundation's final fundraising phases.

"This concept is fantastic and I think the addition of the splash pad is awesome," Millington said.

President of the Madison Claire Foundation, Dana Millington, said eliminating the splash pad will not necessarily have a negative impact on the fundraising, but it would be an attractive amenity.

"I think that adds quite a bit of a benefit to the community," she said. "It's another huge accessible item to that project."

The council's final recommendation was to get the taskforce back together and show the group splash pad designs as well as an alternative, then hear their decision in March.

"I sure hope they put it through," Dana Millington said. "I just think it'll be a great addition."

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.