Park Board approves Wirth Park Adventure and Welcome Center concept

Credit: Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board

Theodore Wirth Regional Park is one step closer to getting a new multi-purpose welcome center. 

The Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board commissioners approved preliminary designs of the Wirth Park Adventure and Welcome Center Aug. 19 that include a new all-season facility and changes to the park’s golf course. 

Schematic plans for the park would add a one-story building that would house a sales and rental shop, locker rooms, a cafe, repair facilities, restrooms and party and conference space. The Loppet Foundation, which is funding the building’s $3.45 million construction, would have offices in the new facility. 

“This was a big step for the Loppet Foundation and the community as a whole,” said John Munger, Loppet executive director, in a statement.

Staff designed the welcome center for a variety of the park’s users, from golfers and mountain bikers to skiers and snow tubers, which have not always seen eye-to-eye on the project.

“This has not been an easy project by any stretch of the imagination,” said Commissioner Anita Tabb. “I’m pleased that we’ve been able to come up with some ways to use this jointly.”

Users would be able to look out of the approximately 14,000-square-foot facility’s glass facade and see the Theodore Wirth Golf Course and multi-purpose trail area. The area would have trails for mountain biking and cross-country skiing, and an event lawn for large events like the City of Lakes Loppet and mountain bike meets. There would also be a relocated tubing hill and snowboarding areas with towropes. 

While the contemporary design of the new facility had its critics on the board, including Commissioner Annie Young, other commissioners like President Liz Wielinski said its “avant-garde” design made it stand out from the park’s older structures. 

“Because this is a historical course with historical buildings in one place, it’s nice to have that juxtaposition,” she said. 

The project also includes recreating and revising several of the course’s back-9 holes, which would accommodate the welcome center building in place of holes 17 and 18. The board’s resolution included Commissioner Jon Olson’s amendment to revive the course’s previous hole 12, leave hole 15 as it is and shift the course’s par-3 green away from Theodore Wirth Parkway and the new center’s 30-stall and 100-stall parking lots. 

While they’re recreating holes, staff could also improve the course’s irrigation and reconstruct bunkers. The board intends to fund the new facility’s design and golf course revisions with nearly $2 million in state and Metropolitan Council bonds and a loan from its Enterprise Fund, which can be used for its business operations.

Staff expect golf course construction to begin later this year and wrap up early next year. They expect Wirth Park Adventure and Welcome Center would be under construction next year and open for the winter 2016-2017 season.