Second dome to be constructed on Holy Angels campus

The Academy of Holy Angels campus is set to be the site of two athletic domes, after the Richfield City Council issued the necessary approvals June 13 to add a second seasonal enclosure. (Submitted graphic)

The Academy of Holy Angels has received the go-ahead to build a second dome on the school’s property.

The Richfield City Council voted unanimously June 13 to allow the construction of a companion to the StarDome, approving the variances and conditional-use permit necessary for the project.

In addition to the second dome, set to be constructed on the current grass field in the southwest corner of the campus, the project will replace a grass field with a synthetic playing surface and add six 80-foot-tall light poles.

Holy Angels says the dome will allow the school to optimize year-round usage of a deteriorating field.

“Heavy usage of the current grass field, as well as inclement weather, has lead Holy Angels to conclude that the current playing surface is in an unacceptable condition,” a Richfield staff report states.

But the approval of the project came only after neighbors voiced strong objections to the intensification of use at the site. Neighbors told the Richfield Planning Commission of their worries during a packed meeting last month, before the commission voted 4-1 to recommend approval of the dome.

“Their concerns were primarily related to increased light and noise, aesthetic impacts,” City Planner Melissa Poehlman said.

During last week’s council meeting, Craig Larson, a member of Holy Angels’ facility committee, explained how the LED technology in the lighting should allay concerns over light pollution.

“With the tall poles and the LED technology, we’re able to focus that light directly onto the field space, so you don’t get the glare, and you also don’t get the light spill,” said Larson, who as an employee of The

Opus Group is working with electrical engineers on the project.

At-large Councilmember Michael Howard, however, was skeptical of that claim, especially since three of the lights will stand 17 feet from adjacent property.

“I admit I find it hard to believe that an 80-foot light that’s 17 feet from a property line isn’t going to have some fairly sizable impacts on a neighborhood,” Howard said.

Considering that, he insisted that Holy Angels work with neighbors should any light pollution turn out to be worse than advertised. Larson promised appropriate adjustments will be made to the light fixtures if necessary.

After they paraded to the podium during last month’s planning commission meeting, neighbors were again allowed to speak at the council meeting. One spoke against the project, and two in favor.

Holy Angels neighbor Sharon Miller, who has lived there for 70 years, worried about the new dome’s impact on her home value.

“I have my house up for sale right now,” Miller said. “ … I would like to know who would like to buy my house when I tell them there is a dome going up right in front of them.”

Complaining especially of hearing “the smacks of the soccer balls every single night,” Miller was disillusioned after the planning commission recommended the project’s approval last month.

Richfield residents “don’t seem to matter to the commissioners for sure, and I’m not sure they seem to matter to you folks,” she told the council.

Community character

While there were technical considerations to weigh, “this really comes down to an issue of community character,” Poehlman said.

In that way, Richfield will benefit, two Holy Angels parents argued.

“We’re a family that moved to Richfield because of Holy Angels,” said Dan Becker, who from his home can hear activity from athletic fields at both Holy Angels and Richfield High School.

“And frankly, it’s a welcome noise for families that are involved,” Becker said. “ … It’s noise of activity that’s beneficial to the community.”

Councilmember Edwina Garcia, whose ward includes Holy Angels, vouched for the school’s importance to the city.

“Quite frankly,” Garcia said, “Holy Angels is community. Holy Angels is a valuable school to the city of Richfield.”

Stipulations of the dome’s approval address hours of operation. The new dome’s hours will be restricted to 7 a.m. to 10 p.m.

The existing StarDome’s hours will be reduced, too. Currently the dome is allowed open from 6 a.m. to 12:30 a.m., but as part of the agreement, the existing dome will be open from 6 a.m. to 11:30 p.m. once the new dome becomes operational.

Also, the new dome will not be allowed to have a sound system.

Howard and Mayor Pat Elliott demanded that neighbors be allowed to use the new facility, too.

The neighbors are “going to need to follow whatever regulations we can set up and can work with them on,” Holy Angels President Tom Shipley said. “ … We want to be a good neighbor here, and we want it to be accessible.”

Contact Andrew Wig at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter @RISunCurrent.