Time to fish the putter out of the garage and don those pleated khaki shorts. The U.S. Bank Skyway Open is back, bringing a breath of summer sport to salt-stained Downtown.
The annual miniature golf scramble, which weaves participants through the skyway system via a course of 18 custom designed putt-putt holes, is now in its fourth year. Winter golfers compete for the lowest score. Local architecture firms and construction companies compete for the best hole design. And all proceeds benefit the Boys and Girls Clubs of the Twin Cities. Registration is still open for the event, which runs Thursday, Feb. 25 through Saturday, Feb 27.
This year features an extra day of golf and a new theme: “Downtown Scene: Minneapolis Arts and Entertainment.” For last year’s “Made in Minnesota” theme, designers focused on reuse and recycling, using sustainable methods to create a course with a distinctive home state flair. One of the more iconic holes was a scaled down version of a hockey rink, with the cup sunken into the goalie crease. Designers often get far more convoluted in their concepts, though, and some unfold in elaborate Rube Goldberg machines.
The course begins in the City Center, takes a dog leg through the IDS Center Crystal Court and then wraps up in Gaviidae Commons.
A round of golf on Thursday and Friday costs $35 per person and $140 for a foursome. That price includes admission to the 19th Hole Celebration, a party on Friday night at the Hotel Minneapolis, complete with complimentary food and drink, music and a raffle. Awards for first through third place are given out at the party, as well as a special prize for “best dressed team.” Hole design awards include Top Design, Greenest Green and People’s Choice.
There is a reduced rate for families on Saturday.
The golf tournament is developed and run by the Minneapolis Downtown Network, a committee of the Downtown Council that promotes networking and socializing opportunities for Downtown professionals.
To register as a participant or to sign up as a volunteer, visit skywayopen.org.
Montreal company chosen to supply equipment for bike-sharing system
It’s looking more and more likely that a European-style bike-sharing system will launch in Minneapolis this year, potentially as early as this summer. Nice Ride Minnesota, the nonprofit created to implement bike-sharing in the Twin Cities, announced last week the selection of a Quebec-based company to supply equipment.
Minneapolis will use the Montreal BIXI system, created by Public Bike System Company, for its bicycles and kiosks. PBSC will also provide customer service, parts supply and technical support. The BIXI system is already in use in Montreal, where last spring PBSC installed 5,000 bikes throughout the city — the first large-scale bike-sharing system in North America. Boston and London have also signed contracts with the company, and the Australian city of Melbourne has reportedly expressed interest in the BIXI system, as well.
Time magazine placed the BIXI system at number 19 on its list of top inventions of 2008.
According to an official statement, Nice Ride Minnesota expects to ultimately have some 1,000 bikes in 80 kiosks throughout Downtown, the University of Minnesota campus and Uptown. Of these proposed kiosks, 65 should be in place by June 2010.
The solar-powered kiosks are free of any electrical connections, so they can be picked up and moved to accommodate changing patterns of use, as well as be removed for winter storage, if necessary. Users pay a subscription — ranging from $1 per half-hour to $50 per year — that allows them to check out a bike from any kiosk with a swipe card. Subscribers sign an online agreement, and the system keeps track of who has each bike at all times. Bikes are equipped with fenders, a chain guard, LED headlights and taillights — each powered by a front hub dynamo — a three-speed hub gear, drum breaks, a kickstand and a bell.
‘Wizard of Oz’ seeks local munchkins
Dubbed “the greatest family musical of all time,” the national tour of “The Wizard of Oz” comes to Minneapolis in late March, and the producers are looking for a group of local children to play the roles of the munchkins during the Twin Cities performances.
NETworks Presentations, in conjunction with Hennepin Theatre Trust, will host an audition on Sat., Feb. 20 at Hennepin Stages. Check-in starts at 9:30 a.m., with the auditions beginning at 10 a.m.
The official call for munckins, released in late January, seeks a group of 12 skilled dancers and singers who are already “engaged in an ongoing study of acting, music and/or dance.”
Children must audition as a complete group of 12, with no individual auditions allowed. Talent will be determined by how well each group sings a rendition of “Ding Dong the Witch is Dead.” Judges will also ask all potential munchkins to perform a group section of choreography, which will be taught the day of the audition.
Children must be 8 to 13 years of age. Costume restrictions dictate that they mustn’t be taller than 5 feet, and that they weigh no more than 100 pounds.
The selected group of munchkins will be announced at the end of the audition day. Winners will get authentic experience with a touring theater production, learn steps by renowned choreographer Leigh Constantine and work with a professional class of theater creatives.
Nonprofit wins Ninth Ward ‘Citizen of the Year Award’
The Ninth Ward’s 2010 “Citizen of the Year” isn’t a single citizen at all. It’s a collection of these citizens who run Open Arms of Minnesota, a nonprofit located just south of Downtown. The organization prepares and delivers nutritious meals to chronically ill residents who cannot shop or cook for themselves. On Jan. 29, at the eighth annual Ninth Ward Awards breakfast, Open Arms deputy director Jennifer Van Wyk accepted the honor from Council Member Gary Schiff.
The award coincides with the completion of a new facility for Open Arms, located at 2600 Bloomington Ave. S. The new facility, which will allow the nonprofit to double the number of meals it can serve in 2010, will be operational at the end of this month. A grand opening for the new building is planned for June.
“Our new home will not only help feed more in need but allow for neighborhood revitalization, job skills training, safer streets and new found partnerships,” said Van Wyk. “This is an honor for the entire ward to celebrate.”
Central Library kicks off new Monday hours
On Feb. 8, Central Library welcomed Monday visitors for the first time in more than three years. Thanks to a portion of the revenue generated from the ballpark sales tax, the Downtown branch has extended its hours to Mondays. It is now open seven days a week, and the new Monday hours are 10 a.m.–6 p.m.
Central Library kicked off “Ballpark Mondays” with a Twins-themed morning ribbon cutting ceremony. Former Twins player and Fox Sports North baseball analyst Ron Coomer was on hand to greet fans and sign autographs, and mascot T. C. Bear milled about with jersey-attired library goers. Sue Nelson, official organist for the Twins, provided a stadium soundtrack.
“You can’t be one of the premier library systems in America and not have your Downtown library open on Mondays,” said Hennepin County Commissioner Peter McLaughlin.
Since June 2008, revenue from the ballpark sales tax also has funded “Ballpark Sunday” hours at 13 libraries, bringing the total number of Hennepin County libraries open on Sundays to 18.
The ballpark sales tax also will fund additional hours at the new Plymouth and Maple Grove libraries when they open in spring 2010 and summer 2010, respectively.
Reach Gregory J. Scott at email@example.com.