Curling facility plans slide through Blaine Planning Commission

A conditional use permit (CUP) for a 28,100 square-foot curling facility next to Blaine’s Fogerty Arena glided smoothly through a recent public hearing.

Blaine Planning Commission members reviewed the request March 13.

The Fogerty Arena Board of Directors has proposed adding a third sheet of ice to the south side of the existing arena.

The sheet would accommodate six curling lanes.

A restaurant and concession area, fireplace, lounge and men and women’s locker rooms would be part of the proposed curling building addition, along with an outdoor dining patio area.

Shawn Kaye, associate planner, reviewed the CUP application during the March 13 meeting.

Plans for a state-of-the-art curling facility attached to Fogerty Arena took a huge step forward earlier this year during a Jan. 5 Blaine council workshop.

City leaders were convinced a $3.2 million curling center attached to Fogerty Arena’s south rink would be worthy of support.

Councilmembers agreed that Aquatore Park Field No. 1 should be taken out of commission this summer so the curling project’s April or early May construction plan could remain on track.

According to Kaye, the field replacement as well as land lease negotiations between the city and Fogerty Arena are being handled separately from the CUP.

Commissioners unanimously recommended the city council consider the CUP at its April 5 meeting.

Site and building plan approval from the council would be required prior to any site activity, Kaye said, adding approval of the CUP only provides general zoning authority for the intended use of an indoor curling facility, restaurant and concession area and associated parking.

The outdoor dining area would require a CUP amendment and building department review, she said.

Arena Manager Mark Clasen provided a project overview for commissioners after the March 13 public hearing was completed.

No one commented on the project at the hearing.

“It’s our goal to operate this facility year around with spring and fall leagues and elite training in the summertime,” Clasen said.

“The closest facility [for elite training] is in Green Bay, Wis.,” he said. “A large group of Minnesota curlers who make that weekly trip, we are going to provide them with the opportunity to train here.”

According to Clasen, the proposed curling facility will have two levels of tiered spectator seating with possibility of third level of modular seating added later.

“We’ll have a video system so when activity is at the far end of the rink, spectators will be able to look at monitors and see what’s going on,” Clasen said.

Joe Ouellette, planning commission chairman at large, asked if the Fogerty Arena curling facility would be capable of hosting Olympic-level tournament events.

“It’s our hope we will host some of those events in the future,” Clasen said. “We are building this to be the best around. We would get a serious look by Olympic teams and national competitions and move up the potential site list. There aren’t that many facilities around the country that can host those types of events.”

Commissioner Al Goracke asked if the new curling facility would require additional employees.

Clasen said three to four maintenance workers would be added.

“We will farm out the food and drink operation,” he said. “This facility will be a lot like a bowling alley. The St. Paul Curling Club supports this project. They are currently overcapacity and we plan to work with them [on events].”

The project site plan approved by commissioners shows a new,100-stall parking lot on the south side of the proposed Fogerty Arena curling building addition.

Curling teams generally have four members on a team and a fifth player as an alternate. Since the proposed facility would include six curling lanes serving 12 teams, Kaye said city planning staff determined that 60 stalls would be the minimum number needed.

Additionally, Kaye said that the 30-year-old refrigeration system that serves the existing south arena will be replaced with a state-of-the art system that will serve both the south rink and the new curling rink.

Tim Hennagir is at [email protected]