The “Gasoline Alley” logo on the side of the white building remained visible from Hwy. 65 in Blaine long after the facility’s fleet of go-karts last rumbled to life.
It was the well-known marker for an amusement park that served as a hub of warm-weather fun in the north metro after opening in 1984, drawing visitors with its racetracks, mini-golf, bumper boats, indoor gaming and tasty concessions.
But the Blaine attraction closed 17 years ago. And late last month the park’s building was reduced to rubble, sparking both nostalgia and curiosity across town about what’s next for the property, which sits near a stretch of land ripe for development.
The Gasoline Alley property and the Blaine International Village mobile home park next door are owned by the Bloom family, who say the Gasoline Alley property is not for sale and is not being marketed at this time.
The family ran Gasoline Alley from its opening until it closed in 2001.
“That was our life, and we didn’t leave that place,” said Cathy Bloom, who ran the business with her late husband, Marvin.
They were so busy during the summer months, she said, that they were the only Minnesotans who welcomed snow each year. Each warm season, days often stretched from 8 a.m. until midnight and beyond.
The Bloom kids once gave their parents tickets to see singer Neil Diamond as a night off. When they got to the concert, a jarring realization hit Cathy: “It was like, ‘Oh my gosh. There’s a world out there.’ ”
Blaine Mayor Tom Ryan said Gasoline Alley became a landmark in town and a hot spot for young people and families.
“They took good care of it,” Ryan said. “We never had any trouble there.”
The park’s closing in 2001 allowed Cathy and Marvin Bloom, who died in 2009, to retire and savor quieter summers on a boat. But the family said it was bittersweet last year to finally tear out the go-kart track and other outdoor features. Tearing down the indoor structure last month marked the second phase of the demolition.
A photo of the building being knocked down was shared more than 1,200 times on social media in recent days and drew hundreds of comments, many remembering summer days spent at Gasoline Alley and speculating about what — if anything — will take its place.
The fate of the land there long has generated curiosity among city officials and residents. The property sits near a large tract of land to the south along Highway 65, of particular interest to commercial entities. It’s the biggest single swath of land still available along the busy north-south thoroughfare, said Bryan Schafer, Blaine’s planning and community development director.
“Having that structure gone and everything out of there makes it a little cleaner looking and more attractive to potential buyers, I would think,” Schafer said. “It’s a nice step to see that happen.”
The demolition has stirred up plenty of memories. At Gasoline Alley, young workers forged friendships that brought them back summer after summer, even during college. Customers sometimes became treasured employees, like the visitor whose mechanic savvy saved the day after the park first opened and the go-karts malfunctioned. It was one of Marvin Bloom’s favorite stories.
Kids chowed down on pizza during countless birthday parties. Brides and grooms picked the spot for their pre-wedding parties. Business executives retreated there over their lunch hours to zoom through the racetracks, silk ties flapping over their shoulders. Teens long grown up can recall scraping every dime and dollar together to go race.
“I’m sure there are very few kids that graduated from Spring Lake Park, Blaine, or Centennial that at one point weren’t at Gasoline Alley,” Schafer said. “It was a big deal.”