From the official East Calhoun Community Organization (ECCO) Minutes for December 2004:
Proposed Calhoun Yacht Club Site–Bob Fine of the Park Board described a proposed plan for moving the Calhoun Yacht Club room to a facility proposed for the Southeast end of Lake Calhoun. He came to hear comments by ECCO. The Yacht Club claims the current boat ramp area is too congested for them and there’s not enough parking available. They want a building for giving sailing instruction. Bob Fine says that the Yacht Club has met with Commissioner Mason and the Park Board Staff. The Yacht Club gave a presentation to the Park board.
The Park Board does not have money for this project. The club was told that it would have to pay for itself. They were told that the Park Board would not be accepting of adding buildings on the lake. The windsurfers informed the Park Board that they have an interest in that particular area of the shore (“Windsurfing beach”).
Mr. Fine said that a proposal was presented to the Park Planning Department. He did not know whether Planning was working on the subject. He said this may be a project that’s far off–because there are a lot of things to be worked out. It appears that blueprints may have been submitted to the park board planning department. The Yacht Club and the Windsurfers have met at a private home already to discuss the topic.
Mr. Fine said that there could be parking for this project where the maintenance facility currently exists along the Richfield Road highway across from Windsurfer Beach. He said this would work out because the maintenance facility and equipment could move to the site being proposed for a trolley transportation museum at Lake Harriet.
Fine said that there are many issues such as what happens to all the buoys? Are they all going to shift to the south part of the lake? One idea was to move half the buoys to the south east shore and keep half at the north end of the lake.
Fine said the feeling of the Park Board Staff is that they want to keep canoe rentals, they want to keep the current building, they want to keep the Tin Fish… “It’s working out great”.
Fine said that the Yacht club said they could raise $150,000 to $200,000 for the facility. The rest would be financed by bonding. How would the interest on the bonding be paid?
Proposal is to have a rental “Event Center” in this two-story structure. Fine said the Park Board has been running event centers, that the Park Board is getting more entrepreneurial.
He said the facility could be leased for parties and weddings as they now do at the golf courses or at Nicollet Island. Fine said they have given contracts out at most of the Park facilities now. They have become quite profitable, “It has really helped our budget because we have been getting a lot of income. We have signed exclusive contracts with caterers and they arrange for parties.” Fine said they feel this will pay for the interest on the bonding and the Park Board will end up getting excess revenue from it with the added possibility that there could be some “daytime” concession there. Fine said, even something like Tin Fish. Fine said that that’s the way the Park Board is thinking now, “Tin Fish!. Tin Fish is just an example, something that can really serve the community, be nice, and we’re getting a lot of revenue from it.” Fine said, “We’re lucky if we even break even at Lake Calhoun in the past. And now, we’re getting a lot of revenue from it…at some point, when they reach a certain level of sales, which they far exceeded, we get 16% of the gross!…. I don’t know what we got last summer, if it’s like $50,000 in rent, but it’s a lot of money! And, if we have more of those, it helps our situation. We’ve been doing things like that which I think have alleviated our budget cuts. Therefore, people haven’t seen the impact with us like closed libraries and closed schools. We’ve been able to keep away from that.”
Board member Gary Farland asked whether the north end of the lake, where the large bath house previously been located, would be a more logical place for this facility, right in front of the Calhoun Beach Club? Fine could not answer that.
Marissa Lasky, representing area windsurfers, made offered observations…First, the buoys present hazards for people windsurfing. She said that the windsurfers have alternative ideas for the Yacht club. They feel that the development is too intense for that site. Too much parking need for three retail sites, an event site, a Yacht Club, the lasers sail boats, a boat launch, a dock, 80 to 140 buoys or more. Intense development on a very small area.
She also raised the question of what is the neighborhood’s and the community’s attitude toward “vendorizing” our lakes? Particularly, at that small site. As a resident of Minneapolis, she said she did not want to see the Yacht Club get a facility paid for by retail on that site. “There is not going to be lots more parking. There are going to be a lot more boat trailers.” The Yacht Club told Ms. Lasky to expect “a tenfold increase” with the laser boats using this southeast site. She said that she understands that the Tin Fish is going to request a liquor license at their site on Lake Calhoun. “This will be a very commercialized lake. Do we want to pay for Park Board needs by intense development of our lakes?”
Al Anderson, resident, reacted to Fine’s comment about the revenue that the Tin Fish raises, that “It’s a lot of money”. Anderson said he has now heard both the Parks Superintendent and Bob Fine focusing on “the money.” He pointed out that, once food and beverage facilities are installed in the city parks and on the beaches, then the City Council can look at the Park Board increased revenues and say, “Hey, the Park Board’s making money, we can cut back their budget!”
Al said that Windsurfer Beach is a prime piece of beach, whether for windsurfing or other recreational uses. “It’s sandy…probably the nicest piece of beach on the lake and you’re going to put a building, a big building, on that. It’s just a ridiculous idea!”
He said that hearing that the Park Board is getting excess revenue from the Lake Calhoun Tin Fish, he questions why, then, the Park Board closed down the park toilets and the small beaches during the summer. Al said that extra revenue went someplace else. He noted that he had been to the new Park Board headquarters, recently, where about 20 million dollars went. He said, “Making money on the parks is a repulsive idea.”
Board member, Keith Ruddick, observed that one of the things that makes Minneapolis unique is these lakes. He said, “Before you put up any buildings around the lakes, the Park Board should think very carefully. While monetary considerations may help short term budget problems, they are completely irrelevant to this. If you put a building there, it’s hard to tear it down.”
Resident, Lara Norkus-Crampton said she was happy to hear that the Tin Fish was working out so well. She said she hoped that that money will go to preserving our beaches, so that we don’t have a re-play of closing any more beaches. Lara noted that she is very concerned about the loons seen each summer in the South east corner of the lake. She said it’s very special to live in this area and to have a loon family down there. “That’s what so precious about this area. I hate to see every space developed to its maximum potential. Then, you have destroyed what people crave more than anything….space! A place to sit on the grass and look at the water. A place to watch loons and migratory birds. People can live in Uptown and walk to a place–I saw a bald eagle two days in a row down at that part of the lake.”
Brief discussion of what the proposed structure would cost brought comments of one or two million dollars.
Matt Carter, board member, observed that he is around the lake often during the daytime. He observed that the sailing classes take place during the day. “You run by, you see all the kids there in groups…they’re outside! They can be outside, it’s not raining. If it’s raining, they’re not going sailing. I have never seen a traffic jam trying to get boats in. Uptown is quieter during the day. There is a lot of available parking during the day a couple blocks away. People can (park) get out, and walk their kid to the class. If they move it to the spot were they want, then everybody has to get down there and there is no place to park! That’s the hardest spot to get to.”
Bruce Sabatke, board member, said this issue certainly needs an environmental impact study. “We are trying to keep these areas as natural and pristine as we possibly can. But we are approached by every development Pretty soon,we’re going to have ‘Sammy Johns’ is going to have his hot dog wagon down there, saying to the Park Board, ‘Gee, I’ll give you twenty cents on the dollar if I can put a little hot dog stand down there.’ It speaks of a terrible encroachment on the natural edifice that these lakes provide. I think it would be a tragedy, because it’s one more corner….I hope you’re right, that money is not the issue. ”
Kay Anderson said, “I am opposed to commercializing the lakes. The Tin Fish is fine, as long as they stay in that facility, and, clean up the bathrooms, which are in dire need of cleaning. To commercialize more, it just doesn’t go with me. Also, I am a sailor, had a buoy down there with a sailboat. I’m a kayaker, a windsurfer, and canoeist. The Catamaran Beach, which is what it was named about twenty years ago, has become a jewel for the windsurfers. However, when you windsurf across there, there’s a huge sand bar on which sailboats could get hung up. I envision that if they move everything over there, pretty soon you are going to be dredging Lake Calhoun.
President Bruce Grimm asked how we could discuss this further at later date. Bob Fine said the Yacht Club should be contacted instead of meeting with the Park Board. But he would be willing to return for a future meeting.
Report from Dan Niziolek, City Council:
1. Zoning implications of building on the lakeshore–Dan said that he would look into the zoning implications of the proposed building on the SE end of the lake. He will report back.
ACTION: Dan will report on the zoning implications of the proposed building with event facilities, retail stores and serving the special interests of the Calhoun Yacht Club.