Residents get the ball rolling on Linden Hills bocce court

The Linden Hills Bocce Club is proposing a bocce ball court near the neighborhood's recreation center. Submitted image

A few Linden Hills residents are planning to build a neighborhood bocce ball court in partnership with the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board.

Dale Mulfinger, one of four friends who make up the Linden Hills Bocce Club, hopes to get a sand court built near the Linden Hills Recreation Center. He said a court will add a low-impact activity to the neighborhood where they hope to draw a diverse group of players and eventually get a league going.

“We would be happy just attracting more neighbors,” Mulfinger said. “It’s a very easy game to play. You don’t have to be particularly skilled.”

The club — Mulfinger and three other longtime neighborhood residents, Rick Polanski, Marc Burgett and Steve Benson —  plans to raise the $12,000-$14,000 necessary to build the court, a two-lane sand pit stretching roughly 100 feet. The Park Board has allocated $5,000 of the neighborhood’s park dedication fees to the project, which has received a $1,000 grant through the Linden Hills Neighborhood Council and about $2,000 in private fundraising. Mulfinger said they hope to raise another $2,000 and may receive a commitment from their fiscal agent, People for Parks.

President Brad Bourn, whose District 5 includes the area, said it’s philanthropic and community organizations that can make small-dollar amenities like a bocce court happen.

“It’s these smaller amenities that we really can struggle for a way… to say ‘yes’ to,” he said during the board’s March 21 meeting.

The project, proposed for a patch of grass south of the park’s tennis courts and west of a children’s play area, will include the two-lane court and several park benches. Mulfinger said eight players will be able to play at the same time with the proposed configuration. Adult players will be able to watch their children playing nearby.

Commissioner Londel French (at-large) said while he may not play the game, he would gladly be a spectator.

“I’d love to sit down and chill on a nice day and watch some bocce ball,” he said.

Through a preliminary agreement recently approved by the board’s Administration & Finance committee, the club and People for Parks will donate the court to the Park Board. If built, the Linden Hills court would be the third public bocce ball court in the park system, joining one nearby in Pershing Park and another in Beltrami Park in Northeast Minneapolis.

The club, which plans to donate two sets of balls for public use, is looking to have a few evenings each week during the spring, summer and fall for exclusive play as spelled out in a shared maintenance and use agreement with the board. The full board is expected to vote on the construction and use agreements in April.

Bocce has players, whether playing individually or on teams, taking turns tossing grapefruit-sized bocce balls as close to a smaller ball, or jack, as possible. Mulfinger said he picked up the game, which resembles curling, shuffleboard and feather bowling, after living in Italy where the modern form of the sport was developed.

Citywide Commissioner Meg Forney said the city has plenty of high-impact sports, but not enough that are friendly to all ages, including seniors.

“It’s wonderful. This is such a win-win,” she said.

Construction on the court is slated for April and early May. Mulfinger said the club’s plan is to have it ready for a tournament during the Linden Hills Festival on May 20.

The group will host an informational meeting at Bremer Bank, located at 4278 Sheridan Ave. S., on April 30 from 4 p.m.–6 p.m. The event is open to the public.