Bielenberg Sport Center Renovation

The Bielenberg we’ve known gives way to a future field house and more.
Steele is put into place for the new 90,000-square-foot Bielenberg Sports Center field house.

Woodbury is approximately halfway through its project timeline for renovation and expansion of the Bielenberg Sport Center. A good time for a bit of reflection on the history of the now- deflated dome and a glimpse toward the exciting future planned for the permanent field house and facility upgrades. THEN~ The original Bielenberg bubble was inflated on September 18, 1995 with as much spirited enthusiasm as is now felt about the new field house project. The 50,000 square foot domed field sprang up as part of a grassroots initiative championed by the Woodbury Athletic Association and Woodbury Area Hockey Club in support of field and ice sports. The Bielenberg bubble was the first municipal structure of its type in the metro area; the only other area bubble at that time was the practice field at Augsburg College. The Woodbury structure was financed as part of a referendum and had an expected lifespan of 15-20 years. The city and a citizen task force opted for a scaled down, 55-foot tall dome, as opposed to an 80-foot tall version that could have housed a full-sized field. “There were concerns about the appearance of a larger dome against the rural landscape,” says Dave Black, manager of Bielenberg Sports Center. “There was also apprehension about the increased possibility of storm damage and higher heating costs associated with a taller dome.” For nearly 18 years, the Bielenberg bubble never accidentally deflated as a result of damage. City staff would partially deflate the dome for occasional maintenance and would pre-heat the internal air prior to oncoming snowstorms to aid the runoff of heavy, wet snow. But the dome’s design, low-lying location and dedicated maintenance operators ensured the bubble’s integrity until Woodbury was ready to move ahead with a permanent structure. Soccer was the primary sport accommodated at the dome along with rugby and modified baseball and softball practices, and lacrosse. The dome’s indoor walking track provided a place for locals to walk or run during the winter months. Black says, “It’s great to recognize summertime walkers around Woodbury and know they first met and became walking buddies at the dome.” NOW~ Eighteen years later, the city’s population has exploded, the bubble has ‘burst’ and a brand new, 90,000 square foot field house is in the works. The new full-sized space will serve a broader array of sports activities including football, soccer and lacrosse. It will have better regulated and energy efficient heating and air conditioning with a state-of-the-art geothermal system. This system will allow year-round use of the new space. In years past, summer temperatures made the air inside the bubble more suited to hothouse flowers than actual human athletes. The elimination of air-lock doors necessary to keep the old bubble inflated, the expansion of the sports center lobby plus the addition of a new restaurant, make the upgraded facility more hospitable to non-athletic events as well. Expos, trade shows, banquets, consignment sales and regional conventions should be right at home at Bielenberg Sports Center. Upgraded audio/visual technology will support business presentations in a field house ideal for corporate meetings and team-building activities. Research suggests regular physical activity increases brain function; the new field house facilities will make walking meetings and friendly corporate sporting competitions easy to organize. The addition of a fully accessible outdoor playground structure, an outdoor refrigerated ice rink and a summer splash pad will round out the community-friendly features of the updated sports center. In all, the collaborative efforts of the city, area athletic groups and dedicated citizens have created a long-term vision for a facility sure to be a lasting and valuable community asset.