Movin' on up: East Ridge, Woodbury teams open new locker rooms at Bielenberg
Roughly seven years ago, Woodbury head coach Wes Bolin and others began thinking about a new locker room for his hockey team.
Last week those dreams finally came true.
Area hockey fans, city officials, players and parents gathered at Bielenberg Sports Center on Saturday, Jan. 28, for a ribbon-cutting celebration for new locker rooms for the Woodbury High School boys and girls hockey teams and the East Ridge girls hockey team.
"It's very exciting," Bolin said. "We're glad to show off what our parents have put together and we're very proud of what we have. It's really a big moment for the Woodbury hockey community."
Dewey Wahlin, president of the Woodbury Blue Line Club, called the new locker rooms "a wonderful community effort."
"This has been an exciting day for a whole lot of people," Wahlin said. "It was a tremendous collaborative effort by all three teams - the Woodbury boys, the Woodbury girls and the East Ridge girls teams. The vision of Wes Bolin, John Erickson and the Blue Line Club really came into being here. It's a big deal."
To complete the project, the City of Woodbury and District 833 allocated the majority of the $350,000 needed for construction of the locker room "shells," while the teams came up with an additional $45,000 - most of which went toward additional features. Construction of the rooms began in September and all three teams moved in to the locker rooms around Christmas.
Wahlin, Woodbury High School Activities Director Jason Gonnion and Woodbury Mayor Mary Giuliani Stephens were front and center, cutting the ribbon with the large, silver scissors on Saturday.
"Everybody worked hard and we got it done," Wahlin said. "Now the kids have a home that they can call their own and be proud of. Bielenberg has always been a wonderful building for all of us. This just makes it even better."
Last year, the Woodbury boys and girls teams and the East Ridge girls team used the same locker rooms as the local youth teams, which caused logistical problems, according to Wahlin, who added the new locker rooms help free-up space for the youth teams and helps the Bielenberg staff.
"It feels good for the players to be able to feel like this is their home rink, with their locker rooms, their band and their fans," Wahlin said. "It's really important to them, whether it's the boys or girls teams."
Two years ago, the Park boys hockey team built a new, high-end locker room at Cottage Grove Ice Arena and, last year, the East Ridge boys hockey team added its own plush digs at CGIA. Now, everyone is on the same page.
"I looked at our locker room and was a little disappointed," Bolin said. "But, if you look at where the community is at right now - our school district has three boys programs and three girls programs - and they make the kind of investment they made down at Cottage Grove and make the kind of investment they made here it does show a great commitment to hockey by everyone in this community."
The spacious locker rooms included custom painting in team colors including logos and inspirational phrases, upgraded stalls with nameplates for each player, showers and things like bubble hockey games, sofas and a video projector.
"The stalls the kids have are as good as you'll find at any junior team or college team," Bolin said. "Many of the pro teams will have stalls that are comparable to what you'll find here. Our booster club did a tremendous job in completing the inside of the project.
East Ridge freshmen varsity players Paige Press and Cara Kaufer said they were each happy about their new digs.
"I think they're so cool," Press said. "Before we'd have to haul our equipment back and forth. Now, it's so nice because you can keep everything here. It's cool to know that we're going to be the first East Ridge graduating class that played all four years in these locker rooms.
Kaufer said, "It feels like we're more at home now. We know this is our place."
Those who attended the ceremony took tours of the locker rooms and spoke to coaches, booster club members and players. As part of the celebration, the Woodbury boys program also held its "Skate with the Royals Day" on Saturday, giving area youths an opportunity to skate with the Royals varsity and junior varsity players at Bielenberg.
The teams raised money for the locker rooms through fundraisers like the Woodbury boys golf tournament, the Woodbury boys hockey tournament, the East Ridge NHL Alumni game, locker sponsorships, the "Puck Wall" at Bielenberg, and coupon cards for local businesses. The teams are hoping to raise additional funds to put the finishing touches on the locker rooms. Locker sponsorships are still available for $500, and individuals or families can give $100 and be recognized on the Puck Wall. Also, coupon cards are available for $20.
"This was not a cheap project," Wahlin said. "There's still a lot of fundraising to do. Any help is appreciated. We've raised a ton of money, but there is still more money to be raised."