Bielenberg Sports Center dome bounces back

  • Article by: JIM ANDERSON , Star Tribune
  • Updated: April 23, 2013 - 11:17 PM

On Monday, the distinctive white dome covering the fieldhouse at Woodbury’s Bielenberg Sports Center had, for the first time since it went up in 1995, gone POP!

But by Tuesday morning it had, um, popped back.

Blame Mother Nature’s wicked sense of humor, so amply on display this so-called spring, for the change in plans.

After a couple of weather-prompted postponements, in a blustery, rain-sopped ceremony on Monday, Woodbury Mayor Mary Giuliani Stephens flipped a switch shutting off the air pumps that have kept the puffy landmark inflated with nary a glitch for more than 17 years.

The ceremony, which included a small crowd deploying bubble-gum bubbles to be popped at the same time, was both an end and a beginning. The dome’s deflation and removal are the first steps in a yearlong $21.8 million construction and expansion project. Along with a new 90,000-square-foot fieldhouse with a permanent roof, the project will include an expanded lobby and improvements to the center’s two indoor skating rinks.

The doors of the 50,000-square-foot fieldhouse were opened, and as air whooshed out of the building, the roof slowly descended. A stiff breeze kept the polyester-coated fabric undulating and dancing for about a half-hour before it settled onto itself in the rain. As the crowd dispersed, it lay in a flat, white, lifeless mass.

But on Tuesday morning, the dome was back in all its glory, resurrected and shimmering in the sun.

What happened?

Snow happened.

As snow kept coming Monday night, said Dave Black, Bielenberg’s manager since the facility opened, a decision was quickly made to inflate the dome. That would allow the snow to glide off the roof and avoid a massive pool of water that would damage the fabric. A company is reclaiming the fabric for use as tarp material, Black said.

Also, as long as the roof was back up, demolition crews decided to remove the fieldhouse turf. That should be done by Thursday, when the dome will be deflated again.

This time, for good.

Jim Anderson • 651-925-5039

Twitter: @StribJAnderson

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