City officials were clear: there’s not enough demand for ice time to warrant a third enclosed rink at the Bielenberg Sports Center.
The Woodbury City Council on Wednesday got the latest updates on the Bielenberg Sports Center expansion project. Plans call for a permanent field house to replace the aging dome and an outdoor ice sheet reserved for leisure skating, along with an updated lobby and other improvements.
But much of the discussion Wednesday focused on the needs of Woodbury’s youth hockey community—some saying the groups are shouldering an undue burden for the facility’s operating costs and others urging the city to have an enclosed ice sheet instead of an outdoor rink for leisure skating.
The latest estimates put the project at $21.8 million. The outdoor rink would be built so it could be enclosed at some point in the future; that would cost $7 million to $9 million.
Tom Jakubik said Woodbury families often drive to River Falls, Wis., for ice time and spend their money outside the city. Woodbury will also add thousands of new residents in the coming years and many of them will have hockey-playing children, he said.
“I want that third rink,” Jakubik said. “I think there is a need for it.”
The city wouldn’t be able to add an enclosed rink to the project without raising taxes, securing a sizable donation or a holding citywide referendum on the matter, City Administrator Clint Gridley said.
“It just doesn’t make financial sense for us,” he said.
However, the city could add boards to the outdoor rink for about $60,000, said Bob Klatt, Parks and Recreation director.
Ice-rental hours are down industry-wide, Klatt said, and the city has been conservative with its projections for the facility’s financial viability.
Said Gridley: “Operationally, it will be self-supporting.”
Staff and council also noted that officials from area hockey groups were involved in the planning effort, and meetings with the Bielenberg Sports Center Expansion Task Force resulted in the project as it stands now.
“We have had a very inclusive process,” Councilman Paul Rebholz said, adding that Woodbury has traditionally had heavy citizen involvement in these types of projects.
Councilwoman Julie Ohs said people may not want to hear it, but “it’s not called Bielenberg Hockey Center.”
Still, resident Vickie Hendrickson, who has three children who play hockey, said she would be willing to work with the city and local clubs to find alternative funding mechanisms for enclosing the outdoor rink.
Council members seemed open to that, and Councilman Christopher Burns said Wednesday’s meeting could open the door for a new round of discussion.
“What are these creative options?” he said.
Woodbury has worked to make it a “dynamic space” that serves the city as a whole, Gridley said.
“We feel that there’s something for everybody,” he said.