Originally published on Star Tribune

Hockey hotbed Edina is playing it cool with a new outdoor rink that officially opens Friday. But it’s not exactly old-time hockey, as the Hanson brothers, of “Slap Shot” fame, might say.

The $1.4 million rink, dubbed “The Backyard,” features an arched metal roof, heated players’ benches and an environmentally friendly icemaking system shared with the adjacent East Arena at the Braemar sports complex. Still to come is a landscaped outdoor spectator area with a fire pit.

“It’s going to be a one-of-a-kind environment here,” said Ann Kattreh, Edina parks and recreation director. “We’re very excited.”

Also opening Friday is Braemar Field, a $4.5 million inflatable sports dome. At 100,000 square feet, it’s the second-largest such structure in Minnesota, Kattreh said. The dome contains about 5.6 million cubic feet of air, kept in circulation by blowers that will also heat the interior to about 52 degrees.

All told, the rink and dome cost a total of $12.4 million, which includes site preparation, design fees, utilities and construction of access roads and retaining walls. The project cost also includes replacement of the existing icemaking system at East Arena, which accounted for $1.8 million of the tab. An accessory building for the dome, with restrooms and a parents’ lobby, cost $665,000.

The project got the OK last year from the Edina City Council, responding to a decadelong lobbying effort by parents and youth athletic associations. A study showed that Edina’s athletic fields were about twice as crowded as those in several neighboring suburbs. In hockey, Kattreh said, youth teams “are currently spending an inordinate amount of time traveling all over the metro area for ice time.”

The dome and rink will greatly expand access to Edina facilities for Edina teams. With the new rink, Braemar will be able to meet about 60 percent of the city’s demand for youth ice time, compared to about 40 percent now. Time will also be set aside for open skating and adult skating, Kattreh said.

The rink was designed to also accommodate sled hockey, an adapted game in which players propel themselves on sleds. The players’ bench areas have windows about 2 feet above ice level, allowing sled hockey participants to see the playing surface from the bench.

The domed field is intended to be primarily a practice facility for baseball and softball, lacrosse, football and soccer. The cover will be kept inflated from November through April, then taken down and stored during the warmer months. The FieldTurf surface is the same as the one at TCF Bank Stadium, where the Minnesota Vikings and the University of Minnesota play. A quarter-mile walking track circles the entire field area.

The dome’s fabric came from Yeadon Fabric Domes in Minneapolis. Owner Steve Flanagan got his start in the business when he helped his dad build the Braemar Golf Dome in 1981. Minnesota’s largest inflated sports dome — about 110,000 square feet — is at the West St. Paul Regional Athletics Center.

Kattreh said the Braemar dome is already nearly completely scheduled for the rest of the winter. The major youth athletic associations in the area committed to booking a set number of hours for the next 20 years, helping to ensure the project’s financial viability.

“We’ve had great support from the community,” Kattreh said. “It’s really been a great collaboration.”

John Reinan • 612-673-7402