Champions Bar site slated for daycare at Lake & Blaisdell

A preliminary design for New Horizon Academy.

New Horizon Academy is preparing to transform the former Champions Bar into a daycare center at 105 W. Lake St.

“What we’ve been noticing, as millennials are getting older, is people are choosing to stay in the city,” said Jill Dunkley, vice president of business development. “That’s an amenity that was lacking.”

Plans would reuse the existing building and expand the structure into the former outdoor patio. A fenced-in playground would stand south of the building, along with 21 parking stalls. The building would remain one story.

The center would be licensed to hold 162 children, age six weeks through pre-K.

Dunkley said the design is not finalized, but said it would have a “little more urban feel.”

“It will be a huge improvement from what’s there today,” she said.

She said New Horizon is interested in more urban redevelopment. She noted that New Horizon would stand along the bus line, similar to a new daycare center at 3354 Penn Ave. N., where New Horizon has partnered with Northside Achievement Zone to serve families.

“Currently, there is a lack of high quality early learning centers in your area,” Dunkley wrote in a letter to neighborhood staff and city officials. “As this area continues its transformation with the realignment of Nicollet Avenue, we believe that the need for early learning services will only continue to be in high demand.”

Champions has been vacant since 2014, when the City Council revoked its liquor license in the months following a homicide at the bar. The city relied on an administrative law judge’s determination that Champions failed to provide adequate security. The judge determined that the bar admitted drug dealers on the bar’s “Trespass List,” allowed fights, permitted drug dealing, and allowed open consumption of marijuana.

Pending city approval, construction of New Horizon Academy would begin this summer, and the daycare would open in late 2016.