City officials say they’re pleased with the new sports facility, a sentiment not shared by some neighbors.
Depending on your point of view, the wet weather that postponed the deflation of Savage’s sports dome at the end of its first season was either a premium or a penalty.
For the city, the delay meant more business from soccer teams needing a regulation-sized field that wasn’t soggy. “We got an extra full week’s worth of revenue with none of the heating and cooling costs that normally come with it,” said City Administrator Barry Stock.
For people like Kirk Sumner who live in the shadow of the Savage Sports Center, it was a different story. “I wasn’t happy when they couldn’t get it down on schedule,” said Sumner, whose back yard is about 350 feet from the facility. “It’s kind of an eyesore.”
For the city and the dome’s neighbors, the dome’s inaugural season appears to have passed as expected.
City officials say the center proved to be popular with area sports teams and even found limited use as a venue for a non-sporting event, the Savage Chamber of Commerce’s Home Garden & More Show. The facility drew some out-of-town visitors, such as the women’s softball team from Minnesota State University, Mankato. “We had people coming to town, eating in local restaurants, staying in local hotels,” Stock said.
Hearing the “thump, thump, thump” from folks using batting cages was one of the unpleasant side effects of living near the dome, Sumner said. Generators supplying electricity also proved to be noisy. He said another unwelcome change was the nearly 75-foot-high dome blocking sunshine that previously helped warm his home’s kitchen on winter mornings.
Stock said the $5 million center basically broke even in 2012, a reasonable performance since it didn’t open and begin generating revenue until last fall but incurred pre-opening expenses for its entire season, which ended this May. Leasing revenue for 2012 was about $118,000, better than the budgeted $82,000. The facility had a 2012 year-end cash balance of $300,000 because of interest earnings and lower-than-expected construction expenses, Stock said.
Stock said the city was satisfied with the job done by the company hired to run it, Sports Facility Development and Management. The Vadnais Heights business had managed that city’s sports dome but was fired last year after an audit raised a variety of concerns, including a lack of documentation in advertising, user contracts and financial transactions.
More recently, West St. Paul officials took the company to task for some maintenance issues, like not picking up debris and letting restrooms run out of toilet paper.
Stock said there have been no such issues with the management company, which was paid $90,000 under its one-year contract. He said the city will exercise an option to renew its contract with the firm for another year.
Stock said the only disappointment was higher-than-expected gas and electric costs caused by problems in the center’s computer-controlled heating and cooling system. The manufacturer didn’t install the system until March, and then had problems adjusting it, Stock said.
“When it’s working properly it’s supposed to lower our gas and electric costs,” he said.
To compensate the city, the manufacturer picked up the $20,000 tab for taking the dome down, Stock said. Deflating the dome itself is a straightforward operation, “like letting the air out of a giant balloon,” he said. The rest of it — rolling it up, taking down the supporting structure, putting the whole thing away — is more labor-intensive and was complicated this year because it has to be done in dry weather.
Another unexpected but more positive development was the April home and garden show, which drew more than 1,000 visitors, according the Lori Anderson, president of Savage chamber. The organization paid the city $1,950 to lease the center for the one-day event.
“I had great feedback from vendors,” Anderson said. “I’ve already had people asking if they could send in money to reserve a spot for next year.” She said she’s asked the city if she can reserve the dome for dates in March for the next two years.
Susan Feyder • 952-746-3282