Local athletic leagues from Savage, Burnsville and Prior Lake say they need an offseason training venue close to home.
Savage resident Mark Riggs says his family travels all over the place five times a week for his children's winter soccer games and practices, which can mean some late nights.
Many families involved in local sports are in the same situation, with teams constantly vying for time in booked-up venues all over the metro area, from Rosemount to Faribault, according to representatives of the Burnsville Athletic Club (BAC), Prior Lake Athletics for Youth (PLAY) and the Prior Lake Soccer Club.
So they've teamed up on a proposal for a $3 million to $5 million "bubble" stadium for Warren Butler Park in Savage, and they're seeking financial backing from the city. The group also has enlisted the help of Oppidan Development, which was behind the construction of the Vadnais Heights Sports Center that opened on Nov. 1.
Thus far, the Savage dome idea has been kicked around in a couple of City Council work sessions after it piqued the interest of the Parks, Recreation and Natural Resource Commission. At this early stage, the stadium possibility has elicited all kinds of responses, from enthusiasm to opposition.
The idea will be discussed further at a community meeting at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday at Savage City Hall, 6000 McColl Drive.
Proposed is a 225-foot-by-453-foot bubble dome spanning an area the size of a football field and covered with artificial turf for soccer, lacrosse, football, softball, baseball and track, according to Brian Flakne , co-chairman of the Savage dome task force. Attached would be an 8,000-to-10,000-square-foot solid structure.
If hard courts were put in, volleyball and basketball could also be played in the facility. An attached building would have restrooms, concessions, meeting rooms, lockers, storage space and offices.
At the park, a fenced-in baseball diamond, skating rink, warming house and horseshoe pits would be kept, while a couple of tennis courts and several other baseball fields could become artificial turf fields outdoors, for an additional $1.5 million, Flakne said.
To fund the complex, the city would use bonds which it would pay back through the dome's revenues, according to City Administrator Barry Stock. To figure out whether the plan is feasible, the city will hire an architect and construction manager group for some more number crunching.
"The wild card is, will revenues cover all of this?" Stock said, explaining that if the stadium under-performs, tax dollars could have to go to cover the shortfall. "That's where the fuller due diligence comes in. It's in no way a done deal."
Projected revenue from the facility ranges from $350,000 to $600,000 annually, depending on the facility's size, Flakne said. With 13,000 participants from the nearby athletic centers combined, plus others outside the area, "We'd be more than able to adequately fulfill [the agreement]."
The park in Savage seems like a central location, he said, with easy access to Hwy. 13, nearby schools and businesses. A wooded area would provide a buffer for the neighboring homes, he said.
But longtime Savage resident LeeAnn Christopherson, who helped collect 50 signatures for a petition against the proposal, is worried about losing the park to a "big ugly dome."
Traffic is also a big concern. She said she's not against having a dome, but the thought of having it so close to her home is unsettling.
"It makes me so sad I could just cry," she said.
Anna Pratt is a Minneapolis freelance writer.