Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board, Loppet Foundation announce agreements regarding donation, ownership and operation of Wirth Adventure and Welcome Center

Posted on August 4, 2016

A rendering of the exterior of the new Wirth Adventure and Welcome Center
The Wirth Adventure and Welcome Center will serve as a vibrant outdoor recreation hub in Minneapolis' largest park

The Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board (MPRB) and Loppet Foundation have spent months collaborating on three tentative agreements regarding the Wirth Adventure and Welcome Center (AWC) building and sitework donation, operation and lease. The agreements were approved by the MPRB Administration & Finance Committee on Aug. 3; next they will be considered by the full Board of Commissioners.

Located in Theodore Wirth Regional Park, the Wirth AWC includes a new building, trail development and infrastructure enhancements focused on cross-country skiing, par 3 golf support, hiking, off-road cycling, snowboarding and snow tubing. The Loppet Foundation is proposing to name the 14,000-square-foot building The Trailhead. It will replace the small par 3 clubhouse and the historic Wirth Chalet will continue to serve the 18-hole golf course and host large group events. The proposed project will also add roughly four miles of mountain bike event trails with a learning area and increase snowmaking capabilities.

“Theodore Wirth Regional Park is such a special natural resource for Minneapolis park users to enjoy amidst a dense urban setting,” said MPRB Superintendent Jayne Miller. “The Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board and the many youth and families who use Wirth Park are fortunate to benefit from the Loppet Foundation’s expertise and commitment to providing world-class programming and recreational opportunities.”

The Loppet Foundation is a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization with a mission to create a shared passion for year-round outdoor adventure in the Minneapolis area, focusing on underserved youth and families. The Loppet Foundation has partnered with the MPRB since its start in 2002, anchoring its work in Theodore Wirth Park.

“The public-private partnership between the Loppet Foundation and the MPRB leverages our respective strengths and creates opportunities for area residents to get outside and active in the heart of the city,” said John Munger, the executive director of the Loppet Foundation. “We are excited to see The Trailhead come to fruition.”

The three agreements outline an innovative, long-term relationship to provide world-class, year-round recreational programming in the MPRB’s largest park.

A rendering showing the Wirth Adventure and Welcome Center

Three new agreements will help to deliver programming in Theodore Wirth Regional Park superior to what either the Loppet or the MPRB could provide independently

Donation Agreement

The Donation Agreement (Resolution 2016-249) establishes a path for the Loppet to construct the AWC building and related utilities according to the schematic design approved by the MPRB on August 19, 2015 after months of community engagement and a formal public hearing. Upon completion, the Loppet will donate the building to the MPRB. 

Operation Agreement

The Operation Agreement (Resolution 2016-250) outlines a framework where the Loppet acts as the primary operator of the AWC, with the MPRB supporting the Loppet’s operations. Salient points include:

  • Seasonal Operations: The Loppet assumes all operations related to snow making, cross-country ski and mountain bike trail grooming and other winter maintenance at Wirth. The Loppet also assumes trail grooming responsibilities at all other MPRB cross-country ski trails. The MPRB continues to perform snow removal on parkways, pedestrian/bike trails and parking lots within Wirth.
  • Golf: The Wirth Par 3 golf course operates out of the AWC. MPRB staff continues to maintain and operate the course, with the exception that the Loppet provides customer service staff inside the AWC. Both organizations cooperate to ensure golf succeeds at Wirth, as golf is an outdoor activity aligned with their respective missions.
  • MPRB Employees: The 10 full-time MPRB staff positions currently assigned to Wirth golf maintenance are retained year-round with modified winter work tasks within the park system. No MPRB positions are eliminated; in fact, one additional full-time parkkeeper position will be requested in the MPRB Superintendent’s 2017 budget proposal as a result of savings achieved through the Operation Agreement. This partnership will improve maintenance throughout the Minneapolis park system.
  • Revenue and Expenses: TheLoppet collects and retains all revenues related to the AWC, except revenues related to par 3 golf, which are turned over to the MPRB. The Loppet is also responsible for all expenses related to operating and maintaining the AWC building.
  • Maintenance Equipment and Facilities: Wirth maintenance facilities are shared. The MPRB primarily occupies those facilities in the summer months (generally mid-March to mid-November) and the Loppet primarily occupies those facilities in the winter months (generally mid-November to mid-March). The Loppet uses its fundraising ability as a non-profit organization to purchase new equipment, and the MPRB allows the Loppet to use its existing fleet of equipment. The Loppet maintains the equipment, and the MPRB provides space to store the equipment.
  • Annual Reporting: The Loppet prepares and submits an annual financial report and an annual programming report to the MPRB. The programming report specifically describes programs and services targeted to children and families who are economically disadvantaged and/or of color.

Lease Agreement

The lease agreement (Resolution 2016-251) defines a relationship where the MPRB leases the AWC to the Loppet Foundation for an annual lump sum payment, a percentage of the non-profit organization’s net income and contributions to a fund dedicated toward long-term care of the building. Salient points include:

  • MPRB and the Loppet Foundation enter into a 20-year lease with two 10-year options for renewal.
  • The Loppet Foundation pays annual rent equal to 18% of its net income, plus an annual lump sum payment of $6,500. The lump sum increases by $1,000 every 10 years of the lease and lease renewals.
  • The Loppet Foundation pays $20,000 annually into an escrow account for the long-term maintenance of the building. The escrow amount increases by $10,000 every 10 years through the initial term of the lease and the lease renewals.
  • The Loppet Foundation may have sub-tenants in the AWC, provided such sub-tenants are chosen through a request for proposal (RFP) process that parallels the MPRB process, the sub-tenants are locally operated and managed, and abide by MPRB policies.
  • MPRB Superintendent or Superintendent’s designee will participate in the selection process to ensure the RFP process meets or exceeds standards of MPRB RFP process
  • The Loppet Foundation provides MPRB with use of AWC facility for MPRB events. MPRB shall be subject to normal AWC facility charges, except two uses per year the Loppet will charge the MPRB 50% of normal AWC rental/permit fees. MPRB shall be subject to normal cancellation fees.

A rendering showing the interior of the Wirth Adventure and Welcome Center

A rendering of the interior of the Wirth AWC

Golf Impacts

The AWC will occupy the existing location of holes #17 and #18 at Wirth Golf Course. Resolution 2016-253 amends an existing design contract for work involving the construction of the AWC and Resolution 2016-252 awards a new construction contract for construction of the golf course improvements.

Changes to the 18-hole golf course are designed to improve safety and disentangle summer and winter sports, reducing conflicts among the numerous recreational opportunities in the area.

Schedule

If the agreements are approved by the full Board of Commissioners, the Loppet would initiate construction of the AWC building and utilities as soon as practicable. Assuming commencement of construction in late August, the Loppet Foundation anticipates completion of the building in early 2017. 

The MPRB would award a contract for construction of the golf course site improvements (assuming bids are within the established budget) in early September and basic site work supporting the AWC operation would be targeted for completion by the end of the 2016 construction season. Remaining work would be completed in spring 2017.