Ice arena threads way through approval process

White Bear Lake Sports Center Renovation

Site plan approval for the renovated Sports Center skated through the Planning Commission last week.

Since the commission is charged with review of capital improvements before making its recommendation to City Council, the site plan landed on its Sept. 25 agenda.

Noting “now is the time to make a serious investment in the Sports Center,” Planner Anne Kane walked the commission members through planned changes to the ice arena.

The existing sheet of ice will be replaced, as will the obsolete R22 refrigeration system and exterior facade. Improvements will be made to the interior. The facility will have the same footprint but slightly less seating. It will get a new roof and insulation, a new concrete floor and LED lighting.

The project is estimated to cost $5.5 million with the White Bear Lake skating community paying $2.5 million and the city the remainder.

There is potential for a second ice sheet, but not on the city’s dime. The hockey association would be tasked with fundraising for that amenity.

“This is a new renovation, not new construction,” reminded Kane. “This won’t be a Taj Mahal of hockey but it will meet the needs of the community.”

A nearby home and garage on the city-owned property will be demolished this fall. The vacant space will remain open for now, but would be used to accommodate a second ice sheet if that happens. It will not become a parking lot.

During a public hearing, two neighbors were concerned with noise and appearance. One resident wanted to know how the ice plant will be screened.

Kane said the city wants to be a good neighbor and will screen the southeast corner, possibly with a berm and evergreens.

Compressors will constantly be running but the building will be insulated. “There will be vibration but not much noise,” noted Mark Burch, city engineer.

The commission approved the site plan 6-0.

Construction should start April 1 on the remodeling project. The city wants the new arena to be ready for skaters by Sept. 1, 2018. The site plan goes to City Council Oct. 10.