'Mega dome' fight heats up in Savage

  • Article by: DAVID PETERSON , Star Tribune
  • Updated: February 8, 2012 - 12:02 AM

Neighbors are resisting what some call a too-fast-tracked timetable with unpredictable impacts.

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Neighborhood residents were shown this image of what the proposed sports dome in Savage’s Community Park will look like, with a seasonal dome and a permanent structure. The air-supported dome would be up for six months.

Photo: , City of Savage

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As Savage's city council nears some key decisions on a proposed sports dome in a city park, the most telling document may well be the city's list of 39 questions people are asking about the idea.

Among them:

Do we really need this? What if another city starts one? Why don't we have a say in this? Why aren't Prior Lake and Burnsville helping pay, when their athletic associations are the ones behind it?

City officials believe they have satisfactory answers for all 39. But neighbors who bought homes without ever imagining they'd be living near a 75-foot-high sports dome are pushing back.

The city plans to "drastically change the landscape of Community Park" with a "Mega Dome" whose parking-lot pollutants threaten an environmentally sensitive area, said Matt Adelmann, a neighbor on Louisiana Avenue. Opponents, he said, have petitioned the state for an environmental review.

The City Council next week is expected to consider financing options and look over promises from user groups to sign up for the time, whose fees are to cover most of the cost of the bonds to build it.

On the drawing board is a city-owned seasonal air-supported dome that's 235 feet wide and 430 feet long -- 30 feet shorter in length than the initial proposal. It would go up for six months beginning roughly in late October.

A 5,000-square-foot permanent entryway structure, designed to resemble the nearby Environmental Learning Center, would store the dome in the warmer months and include restrooms, concessions and the like.

The cost has been pegged in the past about $5.5 million. But City Administrator Barry Stock told a neighborhood meeting last week that an option exists to bring it in under $5 million.

He also outlined a series of steps the city is willing to make to minimize its impact. Among them:

• An earthen berm with plantings to help shield it, especially as the trees mature.

• Lighting in parking areas shielded as much as possible, with perimeter lighting only at emergency exits.

• Mechanical equipment, mainly fans, placed as far from residents as possible, using more advanced technology that should muffle the dull roar that residents have experienced at older domes.

• Video security cameras inside and out to counter any juvenile mischief.

Addressing environmental concerns, he promised that all storm-water runoff will be treated under rules more stringent than the state requires, and that there'd be no runoff into McColl Pond, but rather to a new drainage pond on the site.

Stock acknowledged that it can appear as though outsiders are coming into town seeking the facility, which could end up costing taxpayers if revenue projections aren't met. But that, he said, stems mainly from the oddity of having three school districts impinge on the city, with kids from Savage gravitating to youth athletic associations associated with the districts, none of them branded mainly as "Savage."

The city is keenly aware that domes are going up in various cities and that this one's finances depend on not having close-by competition, Stock said, and he has asked officials in other Scott County cities about their plans.

"Scott County cities understand that this area can only support one dome," he said. "Why would a city try to compete? We wouldn't build an ice arena," considering others that exist nearby. "It wouldn't make money. Our neighboring cities have no plans as cities, though we can't control what the private sector might do."

As for residents having a say, the city's written Q&A stresses -- as do opponents -- that a number of decision points are coming up with public input encouraged. Both the planning commission and city council have to pass on various items, including special permission for a structure that tall.

David Peterson • 952-746-3285

  • TIMELINE

    Monday: Council next reviews the project details

    February-April: Site plan finalized

    March: Planning commission considers rezoning and permit; council reviews its recommendations

    April: If approvals come through, bids awarded

    October: Construction complete, facility opens for the winter

    TO SEE THE 39 Q&AS:

    Call city hall at 952-882-2660.

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