In the years to come, Mayo Clinic's new sports medicine center in downtown Minneapolis will no doubt treat NBA stars, heal MLB sluggers and help promising athletes reach their potential.

But there will be no forgetting the first patient treated after Wednesday's grand opening: Athelene Johnson, 67, who injured her wrist breaking into her own house.

Locked out and perched on a ladder, Johnson shoved open a second-floor bathroom window, she recalled. "I kind of wrenched my hand, my wrist."

Johnson's case is in some ways a metaphor for Mayo's vision for the facility — an orthopedic and sports medicine center that prevents some injuries, diagnoses others and helps athletes young and old maximize their fitness and strength.

"It is a one-stop shop," said Dr. Michael Stuart, co-director of Mayo's sports medicine division and the longtime medical director for USA Hockey.

It also represents an aggressive move by the vaunted Mayo health system into the Twin Cities market, and gives Minneapolis leaders hope of rebooting the ill-fated Block E district.

Before Johnson's 1 p.m. appointment, Mayo officials gave a tour of the 22,000-square-foot center, which is part of a broader collaboration between Mayo and the Minnesota Timberwolves that includes the construction of an adjacent practice facility.

Mayo's center features the latest diagnostic-imaging equipment, spacious rooms that can accommodate 7-foot-tall power forwards, and an expansive training area for rehabbing or boosting the performance of pitchers, golfers, runners and other athletes.

While Mayo doesn't intend to "upstage" existing Twin Cities sports medicine providers or "overtake their turf," Stuart said, the facility represents high-profile competition to large orthopedic groups such as TRIA and Twin Cities Orthopedics, and to athletic training providers such as Orthology that also target a mix of pro and amateur athletes.

Mayo already draws thousands of Twin Cities patients to Rochester, but it has only dabbled with a physical presence in the Twin Cities. Plans for a personal health facility in the Mall of America, for example, were dropped.

Mayo officials believe the urban location will prove popular with downtown workers who can pop in via the skyway for physical therapy or performance sessions on a lunch break. Telemedicine and electronic medical records will also allow the center to consult with Mayo experts in Rochester on complex cases. "The whole impetus is to bring the Mayo model of care to the Twin Cities community," Stuart said. "Patients, athletes, make their own choices."

The center will take patients by appointment or as walk-ins; therapy for injuries is likely to be covered by insurance, while athletes who simply want a training session will probably pay out of pocket.

During Wednesday's grand opening, trainers from EXOS — an athletic performance organization with ties to major athletes and sports teams — gave demonstrations of a golf swing simulator as well as a treadmill that could provide instantaneous feedback to runners on the efficiency and safety of their strides. High school athletes from Chanhassen demonstrated fitness workouts using strength-training equipment adjusted by a compressed air system that runs under the floor.

Johnson's care was garden variety by comparison — a simple X-ray and a splint for her wrist. She injured the wrist a month earlier, but it had never really healed. There are orthopedic centers closer to her home in the south metro area, but she bypassed them out of curiosity about the new downtown center.

"I've heard a lot about the Mayo Clinic," she said. "I understand they are pretty good at what they do."

And, technically, Johnson's injury has a sports-medicine angle. Her right wrist, she said, is on "my writing side, my painting side, my knitting side and my archery side."

If the wrist heals up in time, she might just go bow hunting with her husband this fall.

Jeremy Olson • 612-673-7744