Edina will build a sports dome and an outdoor refrigerated ice rink next to Braemar Arena in an attempt to fix what city officials describe as a severe lack of athletic facilities.
By a 4-1 vote, the City Council on Monday directed staff to proceed with plans for the new facilities. The improvements, which also include new playing fields in Pamela Park, would be paid for with bonds that could boost annual property taxes on a median-priced home by about $60 a year.
Mayor Jim Hovland said taking on the expense was “a big gulp for all of us” but that insufficient athletic facilities had become a competitive issue for a city that wants to attract young families.
“Demand exceeds supply in so many areas; we need to get going as a community,” he said.
The Edina Hockey Association has complained that it cannot get enough ice time in its own city. This year, the Edina Soccer Association had to cancel 825 games and practices because of water-soaked fields during the wet spring.
Ann Kattreh, the city’s parks and recreation director, told the council that Edina has 464 sports participants per city playing field. She said the best comparison is with Minnetonka, which has 279 players per field.
The new and renovated facilities in the $13 million plan could ease that playing pressure, Kattreh said. For example, the hockey association, which now books 43 percent of its ice time at Braemar, would get 58 percent of its time at Braemar with an outdoor rink.
A sports dome has been discussed in Edina for more than a decade. The dome would have a season that runs from November through April, with a walking track around the outside.
Though athletic domes in some other metro cities have run into serious financial problems, Kattreh said commitments from the city’s athletic associations mean two-thirds of the dome’s prime use hours are already booked. Those associations, which include baseball, soccer, lacrosse and football, also have agreed to pay a $30-per-player priority scheduling fee each year for 20 years, which would generate about $95,000 a year.
Those commitments mean less than 700 more hours would need to be rented in the dome for the facility to break even on operating costs, she said.
The rink would have a roof with open sides, heated benches and piping that would link its refrigeration system to a rink inside Braemar that needs an updated cooling system. In the off season, the concrete bed of the outdoor rink could be used by roller hockey teams and players of a modified form of soccer.
Also part of the sports facility plan is the overhauling of fields at Pamela Park, which have been plagued by flooding. The city would turn a grass field there into a lighted field with artificial turf, add a new playing field with a sand-peat base that would aid drainage, and rehabilitate another field with a new, better-draining base.
The Pamela Park improvements may include a new park building to replace a structure that is more than 40 years old and a hard path to make it easier to get around the park.
Kattreh said the sports dome and rink could be ready for use by the end of 2014.
The sole “no” vote against the measure was by Joni Bennett, who said she supported improving athletic facilities but thought that the expense was big enough that the proposal should go to referendum.