The rough concept for a new silent sports center at Wirth Park has won preliminary approval from Minneapolis park commissioners after extended negotiations involving golf and cross-country ski interests, but details of how they’ll share conflicting areas at the 759-acre park are still being worked out.
The schematic design for the new building and environs won committee approval from commissioners last week after more of a year of discussions that reacted to earlier frustration expressed by golfers. Those talks left 18-hole course representatives relatively satisfied, although par 3 golfers are still unhappy over changes affecting their first hole, where conflicts with an artificial snow ski course remain at issue.
The building at the heart of a revamp intended to provide a new hub for ski and off-road bike use of the park will cost an estimated $3.45 million, up from an earlier $3 million. The Loppet Foundation, which earlier committed to raise the $3 million, had raised 2.75 million by a June 30 deadline. It plans to raise the additional money. Its 2013 agreement with the park system allows an additional six-month fundraising extension. Commissioners want more performance and operating details before approving an amended agreement.
Planner Adam Arvidson said the 14,000 square foot building represents a compromise between the foundation’s desire for extra space and available funding. The building represents about twice as much space as a combined golf-ski facility operated by Three Rivers Park District at its Baker Park Reserve in Medina.
The Wirth building replaces an older building built to serves par 3 golfers. It will include places to rent and issue passes for ski, bike and tubing, meeting and exercise space, loppet foundation offices and a cafe. Preliminary drawings show a tall one-story contemporary building with a wood, stone and glass exterior. Park officials hope to open it for the 2016-2017 winter.
Representatives of the 18-hole course are much happier with the splitting of space between their course and the ski course on artificial snow at Wirth after they got input through a golf subcommittee.
Gary Prevost, speaking for long-course golfers, said the proposed design better separates the back nine holes from the ski course where packed man-made snow melted late and kept the course mushy long after other area links had opened. The revisions most notably include relocated 17th and 18th holes, but park staff are still working with golfers on some of their suggestions, area Commissioner Jon Olson said.
Robert Dwyer, representing par 3 golfers, said they remain unhappy about changes for the first hole for that course, proposed by park staff to try to lessen conflicts between the start and finish of ski races and their first hole. He said it’s unsafe for passing bikers and motorists to move the hole closer to the parkway, and play is also aimed at the second tee’s golfers.