West St. Paul City Hall, sports dome projects being studied

  • Article by: LAURIE BLAKE
  • Star Tribune
  • January 14, 2012 - 8:30 PM

The West St. Paul City Council, while not yet ready to give a green light to a City Hall makeover and new sports dome, last week approved more than $625,000 in design contracts to get a clear idea of what the improvements would cost and look like.

In a surprise development, the council also decided to consider acquiring a building across Wentworth Avenue from City Hall as a possible alternative to building an addition.

Collaborative Design Group of Minneapolis won the contracts to design the dome and City Hall improvements. The council also hired Sports Facility Development & Management Group of Vadnais Heights to get leases signed for the dome that would back the revenue bonds needed to finance its construction.

"I am confident that we will have enough leases to go forward with it, but I don't think we will have a go, no-go vote until we vote to issue the bonds," said City Council Member Jim Englin, the primary proponent of the dome on the council.

Mayor John Zanmiller said he is optimistic and leaning toward approving the dome, "but I am not sold on the dome right now. I can't make that decision until we see the numbers determined by the leasing person we retained. I am sold on the need to do something with City Hall."

Council Member Ed Iago said the decision to expand City Hall and build a dome "is certainly far from being a done deal until such time as we see the numbers." He said he expects to see key figures within the next 30 days. Once the cost and revenue figures are available, there will be more public discussion about the projects, Iago said.

City Hall is 50 years old and "bursting at the seams," Iago said. "We know we have to do something."

If the building across the street, which was once owned by Dakota County, would be affordable and suitable to the city's needs, purchasing it may be preferable to adding on to City Hall, Iago said. In that case, City Hall could become the police department.

The building at 33 Wentworth Av. E. has 54,000 square feet and is on 4.3 acres of land with 280 parking spaces. It is owned by the Wentworth Partnership formed by Barry Bosold and David Gimberline. The city will ask the architects to evaluate the building, and an appraisal will be done, Iago said.

For the dome, the city has set the expectation that leases for the facility must bring in at least 70 percent of the revenue needed to pay off construction bonds, Englin said. To get the best rate on revenue bonds, "We need to prove that the facility has a high likelihood of paying itself back."

It's necessary to commit the money to get the dome designed because "no one is willing to sign on the dotted line [to lease time in the dome] until you have a project," Englin said. "People are not going to commit to leaving their current facility to go into a maybe facility."

The design stage will finalize the size of the field and whether to include a track for year-round walking, as well as recommend whether to go with a seasonal or permanent inflatable dome, Englin said.

Laurie Blake • 952-746-3287

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