Blizzard of complaints buries Park Board’s DQ deal

Support for a plan to have Dairy Queen run the concession stands at Lake Harriet and Lake Calhoun melted away faster than a soft-serve ice cream cone on a hot summer day.

A Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board committee approved negotiations with Dairy Queen 3-1 on Feb. 20, hoping it would generate several hundred thousand dollars in new revenue. But when the measure came to the full board March 6,

it died without a vote. Commissioners had received so many complaints, not one of the eight in attendance even offered a motion to consider it.

Instead, the board directed staff to report back March 13 on the following recommendations.

 

  • Reopen the request for proposals for potential operators until June 30.

     

     

  • Survey park users citywide this summer to get their opinions on food and beverage they would like to have at the concession stands, including their opinions on pricing and signage.

     

     

  • Hold public meetings this fall and allow residents in neighborhoods near the concession stand to comment.

     

     

  • Evaluate the information in October and November and make a recommendation to the board by Dec. 31.

     

     

  • Develop options to better operate the concession stands this year.

     

    The Park Board has discussed for years the possibility of leasing the concession stands, and had sought bidders in the past with little success.

    When the Park Board actively solicited Dairy Queen’s interest and negotiations became public, it drew opposition from a number of quarters. People said they opposed corporate logos in parks. Some said they were worried about increased litter, while others wondered how it was possible for the Park Board to not make money on concessions and recommended it raise its prices.

    The March 6 meeting drew a standing-room-only crowd, and the board took testimony from more than a dozen

    people before deciding to go back to the drawing board.

    Mary Belfry of Tangletown, who said she had lived within one mile of Lake Harriet for 47 years, had a petition of more than 200 names opposing the Dairy Queen plan.

    Steve Share of Linden Hills had passed out flyers under the heading of the ad hoc group called SCOOP!, "Stop Commercialization Of Our Parks." He called corporate logos in the parks "totally repugnant."

    Several commissioners said the public response had been overwhelmingly against the Dairy Queen agreement, and each commisiosner weighed in with conciliatory words. Commissioner Walt Dziedzic, who initially voted for the plan, admitted to getting "an earful" from his wife on the matter.

    Commissioner Annie Young, who had cast the sole "no" vote in the Feb. 20 meeting, said the board needed to develop a policy of corporate sponsorships before moving ahead with any individual projects.