Sports center asks for input on 30-year plan

Staff Writer
I cover the cities of Andover, Blaine and Ramsey. I have worked at ABC Newspapers since August 2007.

It has been 30 years since Gov. Rudy Perpich signed legislation creating the Minnesota Amateur Sports Commission, which set in motion construction of the National Sports Center in Blaine.

Maps were marked with suggestions ranging from the addition of a BMX course to a new hotel and clubhouse. There will be another open house before the final master plan is completed this fall. Photo by Eric Hagen
Maps were marked with suggestions ranging from the addition of a BMX course to a new hotel and clubhouse. There will be another open house before the final master plan is completed this fall. Photo by Eric Hagen

Today, the NSC has 54 grass athletic fields, an eight-rink Schwan’s Super Rink, a 58,000-square-foot Sports Hall with indoor turf fields, an 18-hole golf course, a 10,000-seat stadium, a meeting hall, an expo center, a 250-meter all wood cycling velodrome and a 180-bed residence hall.

But the NSC still has underused space on its 660-acre campus along much of 105th Avenue between Davenport Street and Radisson Road. So throughout the spring and summer, the NSC is reaching out to community stakeholders to gather their input on what the NSC should have another 30 years from now.

The NSC hired LHB, an agency that provides engineering, architecture and planning services, to assist with the master plan update.

After a series of invitation-only stakeholder meetings, the NSC hosted a town hall on May 2.

Lydia Major, landscape architect for LHB, is encouraging everyone to dream big.

“No idea is too crazy,” she said. “Don’t let logistics stop you from telling us your great idea,” she said.

A survey will be available until the end of May at LHB will then draft a master plan and hold open houses this summer and early fall to get comments on proposed master plan that can be refine.

The goal is to wrap up the final draft of the master plan by late fall.

Key talking points focused on improving roads, traffic flow and directional signage on the campus, trails along 105th Avenue, a pedestrian tunnel under 105th, an improved golf clubhouse, a hotel, lighted golf driving range, a BMX course, tennis courts and indoor courts for basketball and volleyball.

Among one person’s pet peeves is that he has seen soccer players having to drink water from a hose because they weren’t close to a drinking fountain. Also, in the quest for getting as many fields in as possible there are few trees to offer shade from the sun.

The NSC campus is on both sides of 105th Avenue. Neil Ladd, senior director, said the maintenance facility is on the north side of the road and most of the fields are on the south side, although new fields are planned for the north side.

Beyond making it easier to get mowers from one side of 105th to the other, Ladd said the NSC believes a tunnel or bridge across 105th would be the best solution for pedestrians and drivers.

“We’d like it to happen, but it’s a city road and they’ll have to do what they can within the means they have,” Ladd said.

A development so recent that it was not even included on the maps at the town hall is a new preK-4th grade elementary school for the Spring Lake Park School District. The school will be on the southeast corner of 105th and Davenport Street and be open by September 2018.

At one table, a community member said he was concerned that most parents will probably be coming from 105th Avenue and needing to navigate through the NSC campus to get to the school.

Another person at the town hall said a NSC campus map integrated into mapping apps would help those unfamiliar with the campus find specific fields and facilities on this more than 600-acre campus.

Highway 65 is not directly adjacent to the NSC, but it’s a quarter-mile away and would be used by any visitors not coming from Radisson Road. One attendee said there should be bridges on Highway 65 at 105th and 109th avenues, although he acknowledged that the presence of the manufactured home park will make a 105th Avenue bridge more challenging if that were ever the chosen plan.

Fill out a survey by the end of May at so your feedback can be considered as the master plan for the next 30 years of the National Sports Center is developed. Courtesy of National Sports Center

One person hopes there can be a “ginormous” clubhouse with a nice restaurant that would be a great place for families to dine rather than them just coming to the NSC for the games and leaving as soon as possible.

The Nicklaus Group has been looking at the NSC campus for a new hotel. Todd Johnson, executive director of the Minnesota Amateur Sports Commission, told the Blaine City Council in September 2015 that Jack Nicklaus and his development team had visited Blaine and presented a concept of a hotel by The Victory Links Golf Course.

Johnson told the council that the current clubhouse is in tough shape and he would love to see it be replaced within a new hotel. The clubhouse has no locker rooms with showers and no restaurant, which is a common golf course amenity.

Barclay Kruse, spokesperson for the NSC, said earlier this week that the Nicklaus group is still doing market research to determine if this hotel would even be feasible.

Bill Lewis, who is involved with Spring Lake Park youth basketball, said the north metro basketball programs could get even better and produce more Division 1 athletes if there were more practice facilities, not only for the high school players but the youth programs as well. He thinks a fitness center with a minimum of eight full-size courts would be a tremendous opportunity.

Kruse said the Sports Hall used to have basketball courts when there was polyurethane flooring. But in the interest of an improved indoor soccer experience, artificial field turf was put in.

But Kruse noted that the NSC does organize basketball tournaments throughout the state, including at Spring Lake Park High School. Successful tournaments could lead to demand for a single, higher-quality facility, for these tournaments. This is what happened leading up to construction of the Schwan’s Super Rink, he said.

“We have a lot of great ideas,” Johnson said at the conclusion of the town hall meeting. “We want to push hard and get it right and we couldn’t do it without you.”

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