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January 17, 2011
By: Gregory J. Scott and Michelle Bruch
Gregory J. Scott and Michelle Bruch
Park-sponsored ice rinks in NE: 125 years of hot chocolate and runny noses

LOGAN PARK — Outdoor ice-skating — not to mention hockey and broomball — is back in Northeast, as the area’s two park-sponsored rinks are open for use and in full swing. And for one of them, Logan Park, 690 13th Ave. NE, this winter marks a 125-year anniversary.

According to David Smith, historian and author of “City of Parks: the Story of Minneapolis Parks,” Logan Park is the site of the second oldest park board-sponsored skating rink in the city, created in 1885. But it was the first one made by intentionally flooding a stretch of dry land.

So where was the first site? Loring Lake, Loring Park’s beloved urban pond.

Loring Park — then known as Central Park — was the first land acquired by the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board, which was created in 1883. The following year, 1884, according to Smith, the Board sponsored skating on the frozen pond — though he notes that skaters had used the ice for some time before that.

“The next year, 1885, the park board voted to provide a rink on the pond again (and to light it with electric lights),” Smith wrote in an e-mail, “but also to create rinks at Logan Park and Murphy Square [adjacent to Augsburg College].”

Smith says too that early city residents skated on the frozen Mississippi River above the falls and on a small pond/puddle Downtown near Nicollet Avenue.

Now in its 125th season, Logan Park boasts three separate skating areas: one for hockey, one for broomball and one for free skating. All three opened this year on Dec. 21.

“Once six o’clock comes, it’s packed,” said Heidi Miller, recreation supervisor at Logan Community Center.

This year the park is hosting five broomball leagues, games and practices for two youth hockey teams and of course, the constant string of hockey pick-up games for adults.

“People that grew up in Logan and have moved away, they still come back and play,” said Miller. “It’s very popular.”

On Jan. 7, Logan Park hosted its second annual Family Skate Party, complete with bonfire, snowshoeing and hot chocolate.

At nearby Windom Park, 2251 Hayes St. NE — where the rink dates back to the 1930s — recreation leader Anthony Papa hopes to host a similar event before the season is through. Papa says Windom was one of the first rinks in the city this year to open, its ice ready on Dec. 14

Last year the park threw a winter ice party featuring a chili cook-off and bonfire. A similar event is loosely scheduled for late January or early February.

Warming houses at both locations loan free sports equipment, skates and hockey sticks at Logan Park, just skates and pucks at Windom. Hours are Monday through Friday, 3–8 p.m.; Saturdays, 10 a.m.–9 p.m.; and Sundays, noon–6 p.m. Both rinks will remain open until Feb. 20.

For more information, call the rink hotline at 313-7708.

— Gregory J. Scott

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Brave New Workshop wants to buy Stages

DOWNTOWN CORE — Brave New Workshop owner John Sweeney says he wants to secure an additional venue for his renowned comedy theater, which has been an Uptown destination since 1965. If approved by the City Council, he could be mere months away from buying the Hennepin Stages property at 824 Hennepin Ave. S.

“We’re basically bursting at the seams,” Sweeney said, referencing the theater’s current location at 2605 Hennepin Ave. S. The Workshop’s improv school, where students can take classes ranging from music to sketch writing, currently has more than 200 full-time students. “We just don’t have enough space for that,” he said, adding that he’s signed a temporary lease across the street to accommodate the overflow.

The plan — which goes before the City Council in February — would be to move all of the Workshop’s scripted “mainstage” shows to the new venue, which seats 235. Sweeney would keep the old location for improv classes and improv shows, as well as for corporate training sessions, which has become a significant part of the Workshop’s revenue.

“So if we move our mainstage performances there [to 824 Hennepin Ave. S.], that frees up a lot more room for the school to flourish at 2605 Hennepin,” he said. “Most nights there’d be shows at both spaces.”

Sweeney noted the “fun, superstitious” fact that the theater would stay on Hennepin Avenue, where it has resided, in one location or another, since its founding on East Hennepin Avenue in 1958. He also said that the layout of the Stages theater is “so identical to our current space.”

A name change could be in the works for the Uptown location, Sweeney speculated, but emphasized that his plans are far from concrete.

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Riverfront design finalists to present visions at the Walker  


LORING PARK — The four finalists in the Riverfront Design Competition — which invites international design teams to reimagine a five-mile stretch of Mississippi riverfront, from the Stone Arch Bridge to the northernmost limits of the city — will present their visions to the public on Jan. 27 at Walker Art Center.

The four design teams, selected in November from a global pool of 16 semi-finalists, hail from New York, Boston, Berkley and Beijing. The winner will be selected Feb. 10, and the top design will be used to guide a major revamp of the riverfront that the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board hopes to make the crown jewel of the Minneapolis park system.

Tickets are free, but pre-registration is advised. Reserve your free ticket by calling 375-7600. Unclaimed tickets are subject to redistribution 15 minutes before the event. This event also will be webcast live and archived at channel.walkerart.org.

— Gregory J. Scott

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Turkeys take to Johnson Street

AUDOBON PARK — Believe it or not, a rafter of about six turkeys has been a fixture on Johnson Street since the spring.

“We see them every day in different spots around here,” said Jodi Lund, co-owner of the Coffee Shop Northeast. “We get worried when we don’t see them.”

The turkeys are said to live in Audubon Park, and they have been spotted roosting in neighborhood trees. The turkeys typically meander down the middle of Johnson Street, or take to the sidewalks to check out the local businesses.

“Mostly they hold up traffic,” said Erik Vevang, an owner of Foiled Again Salon.

The turkeys recently paid Crafty Planet a visit. “They sat in front of our door and stared inside at us,” said employee Candace Davis.

Farmer’s Insurance owner Travis Marcellus said he had difficulty leaving his office one day.

“There were eight of them up against the door,” he said.

Staff at Sarah Jane’s Bakery said they don’t feed the turkeys, although they did set out some buns and water for them on one occasion. They often see the turkeys in people’s yards, and they speculate that the turkeys are gobbling up corn and birdseed at the neighborhood feeders.

The turkeys do get handouts from the staff at Rewind, however.

“They love Rewind,” said owner Sarah Hoese. “They’re on our Facebook page all the time.”

— Michelle Bruch

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Plymouth Avenue Bridge reopens to pedestrians

RIVERFRONT — The Plymouth Avenue Bridge reopened to pedestrian traffic on Jan. 6.

The bridge has been closed since October, when it was found to have corroded cables. The bridge will remain off-limits to cars for most of 2011. Combined with the long closed Lowry Avenue Bridge, the Plymouth closure has greatly restricted travel between North Minneapolis and Northeast. The nearest river crossing is now at Broadway.

City officials deemed the bridge safe for foot traffic after the Department of Public Works reviewed the findings of an engineering consultant. The bridge is also open to cyclists, although the city is asking bikers to walk their two-wheelers over the bridge, as the bridge’s plowed sidewalk is too narrow to accommodate both foot and bike traffic.

— Gregory J. Scott

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New executive director for NE arts association


BOTTINEAU — The Northeast Minneapolis Arts Association (NEMAA) recently hired a new executive director from the Burnsville Performing Arts Center.

Alejandra Pelinka joined NEMAA in late December. She is the art gallery director at the Burnsville Performing Arts Center and board president of the Burnsville Visual Arts Society.

Her new job entails publicizing the Northeast arts community and coordinating Art-A-Whirl and the Fall Fine Arts Show.

“The reason we have hired an executive director now is that we’ve grown 40 percent as an organization in the last five years,” said incoming board chair Susan Wagner Ginter. “We’re ready to take the organization to the next level.”

Pelinka will also reach out to Northeast businesses and community groups, participate in fundraising and grant writing, and work with the media to enhance NEMAA’s brand.

“We’re looking for wider visibility,” Wagner Ginter said. “We’d like to get more people coming into Northeast.”

— Michelle Bruch

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Metrodome won’t be fixed until March

DOWNTOWN EAST — Although a definitive damage report is still weeks away, Metrodome officials say there’s no way the collapsed roof will be repaired before March, sending several high school and college baseball teams scrambling to find a new venue for their spring games.

On Dec. 29, an official statement released by the Metropolitan Sports Facilities Commission (MSFC), the group that operates the Dome, said, “It has become increasingly clear that any repair or replacement scenario for the damaged roof will require at least through the month of March to be completed.”

The MSFC hopes to have a full report on the damage assessment and “a recommended repair or replacement plan” by the end of January. Engineers from Walter P. Moore and Birdair, Inc., are working to meet the deadline. New roof panels are currently being manufactured at a facility in Mexico, but it is not yet known how many of the Dome’s 106 panels will ultimately need to be replaced.  The MSFC puts the number at at least nine.

Meanwhile, a slew of annual events usually held in the Dome is left stranded.

TwinsFest, which last January drew more than 32,000 fans to the Dome, has been relocated to the National Sports Center in Blaine. It is sold out and still schedule for Jan. 28–30.

In addition, more than 300 college and high school baseball games need to be relocated.

The University of Minnesota had 16 games scheduled at the Dome through March. Various Division I-AA, II and II three teams, who rent the stadium for nonconference games, had at least 250 total games scheduled. These games happen around the clock, some starting as late as 2 a.m., and the Dome has traditionally averaged more than five per day through March.

Other events that have been canceled include the Hmong American New Year, the Home & Landscape Expo (Jan. 14–16, moved to the Minneapolis Convention Center) and the Jan. 22 Advanced Auto Parts Monster Jam, which has been cancelled.

— Gregory J. Scott


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Poverty-fighting nonprofits merge

DOWNTOWN CORE — Two esteemed nonprofits with a long track record of combating poverty have merged to form a new organization.

As of Jan. 1, the Family Partnership has joined forces with Reuben Lindh Family Services. Formerly known as Family & Children’s Services, the Family Partnership is a 132-year-old organization offering counseling services and education programs for families living in poverty. Rueben Lindh, founded in 1969, provides early childhood through high school educational services to children living in poverty.

The new organization will take the Family Partnership moniker, and Molly Greenman, the current Family Partnership president and CEO, will retain her position. Reuben Lindh’s Executive Director Dianne Haulcy will become chief operating officer.

The Family Partnership operates six locations throughout the Twin Cities. The Downtown office is at 414 S. 8th St.

— Gregory J. Scott