Expansion of a new and improved Woodbury sports center should start on schedule in April after a community task force concluded that the city's planning has been substantially on track.
A remodeled and expanded $15.5 million Bielenberg Sports Center would double the size of the complex at Bailey Road and Radio Drive on the city's south side. The new complex would become the centerpiece of a sprawling campus that will include Miracle Field -- which is a baseball field for disabled children -- and a second amenity for disabled children, a playground called Madison's Place.
"It's really become a regional facility, a first-class place, and this expansion takes it to the new level," City Administrator Clint Gridley said. "We feel really good about the position of this. We have experienced staff, we know the operating performance very well and we have two voter-approved levies."
The 14-member citizen task force, led by Mayor Mary Giuliani Stephens, toured four major athletic centers in the metro area and held a public open house at Bielenberg to study financing and operating considerations.
The task force recommended to the Woodbury City Council last week that a preliminary design submitted to the city on July 12 by Pope Architects should be approved. The design shows a new field house -- not a bubble but a permanent structure -- replacing the current bubble to the south of the ice arena.
A new lobby with skate rentals, offices and meeting rooms will connect the two main structures. The new field house will have 93,000 square feet for football, soccer, lacrosse and other sports, such as baseball.
The task force also recommended that the city seek bids for food service in the building and that a landscape architect be hired to design an outdoor plaza and recreational skating rink.
The City Council urged Gridley and his staff to move forward with planning. No votes were taken because the discussion came at a workshop, not a regular meeting. Planning now will move into the more detail-intensive "design development" stage, he said, with a review scheduled for October.
"The intent is for this to be really the focal point for our organized athletics in the community," said Bob Klatt, the city's parks and recreation director.
Annual visits to the Bielenberg Sports Center averaged 180,000 over the past five years, Klatt said. That number will grow because most of Woodbury's land for future housing lies south of the 320-acre campus. Woodbury's population has tripled since the sports center opened in 1995 and will grow to 84,000 residents by 2030.
Gridley said financing will come from extending current property tax levies.
Construction will begin in April with completion in February 2014. The plan is at www.startribune.com/a1555.
Kevin Giles 651-925-5037 Twitter: @stribgiles