Bob Klatt has seen it all at Bielenberg Sports Center.
The parks and recreation director is in his 30th year with the city of Woodbury. In 1995 Klatt watched as the famous Bielenberg "bubble" — the first municipal sports-centric dome in the metro area — was inflated for the first time. Last year he saw it go down to make way for a new 90,000-square-foot field house, arguably the grandest improvement in Bielenberg's nearly two-year, $22 million makeover.
Other upgrades include a drastic renovation to Bielenberg's main lobby, the addition of a large outdoor pleasure skating rink, enhancements to the two indoor ice rinks and a new 15,000-square-foot, handicapped-accessible playground and splash pad.
"We consider Bielenberg the crown jewel of the parks and rec department," Klatt said. "We hope the residents are proud of it."
Nineteen years ago, Klatt knew the dome at Bielenberg — named for Woodbury's first mayor, Orville Bielenberg — wouldn't last forever. The bubble's expected lifespan was 15 to 20 years. Klatt believed if the dome was successful, a permanent structure would eventually replace it.
During that time Woodbury was among the fastest-growing cities in Minnesota, its population doubling to an estimated 63,000 people.
"That's what we could afford at the time as a city," Klatt said. "We built what we could, and it's served the community well. We're very fortunate to now have such a nice facility that'll be here for the next 50 years. We're really excited."
Woodbury Mayor Mary Giuliani Stephens called Bielenberg, which held an open house Saturday to mark the project's completion, a "unique facility" that is "practical, useful and versatile."
The new field house is twice the size of the dome and big enough to house a regulation soccer field. It will play host to the area's youth soccer, lacrosse, softball, baseball and football teams. There will also be "open" time on weekends for walking, jogging or playing pick-up games.
"There's a large demand for use of the field house," said Dave Black, the Bielenberg Sports Center manager since 1995. "We feel good about the fact that we're popular."
A major new tenant will be Minnesota United's soccer team, which will use it as its official practice facility. The field house includes a team-funded 7,500-square-foot training center for United players and coaches.
The team, which currently trains in Blaine, has not set a target date for the move.
"Providing our players with a top training facility is crucial for our success, and this partnership is another great step for us as we continue to build our organization on and off the field," Minnesota United President Nick Rogers said.
United coach Manny Lagos, a Minnesota native and a fan of the upgraded facility, said it will help the growth of soccer in the community and the state.
"I couldn't be more excited," Lagos said. "Selfishly, this will make us more competitive and help us bring more top players to Minnesota, so we can continue our efforts to become a top team in the country. But, this also gets kids more excited about not only soccer but all sports and about being part of the city of Woodbury."
Klatt said he believes the field house ties well into the original structure. It has six drop-down batting cages, and the field can be split in half by a divider. The surface of the field house is MONDO brand turf that, according to Black, is popular for European soccer fields.
"It was the right fit for what we're doing and for the right price," Black said. "They are highly regarded in the soccer community. We feel we've got a great overall product."