Putt-Putt for the parks?

Life is imitating art.

This summer, the Walker Art Center opened a popular miniature golf course as part of the Sculpture Garden -- 10 holes designed by area artists and architects. The course is scheduled to close Monday, Sept. 6 -- but the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board staff may create a permanent Putt-Putt to make some bucks-bucks.

Mini-golf is one of several ideas Park Board staff is mulling to recoup lost parking revenue, said Don Siggelkow, general manager for administration and finance. Staff eventually will take a formal proposal to the Park Board.

The Park Board has a surface parking lot near the Sculpture Garden. It once charged $7 for Guthrie Theater event parking, Siggelkow said. The lot generated $500,000-$550,000 a year to support the parks.

However, last November, the city opened the 671-stall underground Vineland Place ramp to serve the Walker and Guthrie, charging $5 for event parking. That cost the Park Board $200,000 a year in lost lot revenue, Siggelkow said. He expects the loss to hit $300,000 a year once the Guthrie moves to its new riverfront home.

Park Board staff has several ideas for raising more money, he said.

They considered proposing a two-story, 20,000-square-foot banquet facility near the Sculpture Garden -- only to find they would have to dig 120 feet to hit bedrock, Siggelkow said. The extra construction costs make the plan less feasible.

The Park Board could put the mini-golf course west of the Sculpture Garden, where it had envisioned the banquet facility.

"The Walker showed us that mini-golf is popular. It was a two-hour wait," Siggelkow said. "Why would we argue with success? I don't know why they did it. As a Park and Recreation Board, it makes sense for us to do it."

Another idea is to create a formal wedding area next to the Sculpture Garden, he said.

"We have a lot of weddings in the garden now, but there are a lot of restrictions as far as seating and shade, and whether you can put up tents," he said.

The Park Board could also create its own version of Walker Art Center's "Rock the Garden," but make it a Park Board money-maker, Siggelkow said.

"We want to make sure we are working with the Walker to put things in there that are complementary to their plans," he said.