Archive | February, 2014


Local nonprofit honored by White House invitation

Posted on 15 February 2014 by robwas66

IOC_CollegePossibleCollege Possible, whose local office is at 540 Fairview Ave. N., has announced an ambitious growth plan, including expanding services to Philadelphia, at a recent White House gathering. The summit, jointly-led by the First Lady’s office and officials from the National Economic Council, the Domestic Policy Council and the Department of Education, addressed stark class disparities among college students and graduates. College Possible, an organization working across the country to coach low-income students to-and-through college, has served local students since 2001.

“Educating Minnesota’s capable low-income students is not only the right thing to do; it is the only way to maintain a strong local workforce in a competitive global economy. The community has embraced our mission, directly contributing to the strong results that have led us to the doors of the White House,” explained College Possible Twin Cities Executive Director, Sara Dziuk.

In the Twin Cities, College Possible is poised to grow. The program has expanded to partner with 20 high schools, and an additional 20 high schools are on a waiting list eager to welcome College Possible.

President Obama described the summit as part of an effort to “make sure that this is a country where if you work hard you can make it.”

College Possible received attention in November when Harvard University released historic results from a study using randomized controls, considered to be the gold standard of evaluation. The findings show that College Possible’s approach to unlocking the potential of low-income students is effective and that students served are significantly more likely to enroll in a four year college.

College Possible’s approach is designed to connect students to the college that best matches their abilities at a fraction of the cost of other college success programs. College Possible has served 10,000 students this year in the Twin Cities community.

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Local Masonic Temple hosts illusionist and medium

Posted on 15 February 2014 by robwas66

IOC_IllusionistThe Triune Masonic Temple in St. Paul, one of the oldest operational Masonic Lodges in Minnesota is known for its Secret Societies and Ghosts. On Feb. 28 and Mar. 1, the Masonic Temple (1898 Iglehart Ave.) will set the stage for 2 nights of Mystery and Intrigue with An Illusionist and a Medium – featuring special guests from the other side.

Twin city native, Sean-Paul as a Victorian Era entertainer, will perform his Illusion and mentalism in a manner that dates back to the same time as when the Masonic temple was built. “It is a thrill to perform material from 100 years ago can still bring today’s most skeptical viewers to the edge of their seats!” says Sean-Paul of Intrigue Theater.

In the second half of the experience, Juliana Fay as the Medium, makes a call out to the other side and ultimately proves that Ghosts have Answers. While the evening is a theatrical experience guests typically leave questioning if what they just saw was just entertainment, or possibly something more.

This event is two nights only on Fri., Feb. 28 and Sat., Mar. 1 at 8pm. Tickets start at $24.95, and the last two years that Intrigue came to Triune Temple, the show was a sell out. Go to www.http://intriguetheater.com for online reservations or call 855-446-8744.

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Hamline Library posts monthly events

Posted on 15 February 2014 by robwas66

IOC_LibraryThe Hamline Midway Library, 1558 W. Minnehaha Ave., has a variety of activities planned for all ages in February and March, from hands-on crafts for adults and kids, to exciting cultural events. Among the events are:

—Every Friday through Mar. 7, come to the Hamline Midway Library from 10:30-11am for Toddler and Pre-School Storytime.

—Mon., Feb. 17, all St. Paul Library locations will be closed for Presidents Day.

—Wed., Feb. 19, the library’s Wednesdays@1:00 series continues with the last presentation of Swedish Weaving with Ruthanne, from 1-2:15pm. Learn the art and skill of Swedish weaving in this hands-on workshop. Craft supplies are provided for a $10 contribution. Please bring your own small scissors. Registration required; please call 651-642-0293 to sign up.

—Wed., Feb. 19, 7-8:15pm, the Fireside Reading Series features Heid E. Erdrich, whose book “Original Local: Indigenous Foods, Stories, and Recipes from the Upper Midwest” explores indigenous menus and stories. Presented by the Friends of the St. Paul Public Library with co-sponsor Micawber’s Books.

—Mon., Feb. 24, 6:30-7pm, families can enjoy Evening Reads and Activities with literacy volunteer Lark.

—Wed., Feb. 26 and Wed., Mar. 12, from 1-3pm, Harriet Mednick presents Leaf, Bean, Pod, Bottle as part of the Wednesdays@1:00 series. The talk focuses on the cultural histories of tea, coffee, chocolate, and scotch.

—Wed., Feb. 26, 7-8:15pm, teacher, writer, and minister Karen Hering closes the Fireside Readings Series with a discussion of her book “Writing to Wake the Soul: Opening the Sacred Conversation Within.” Presented by the Friends of the St. Paul Public Library with co-sponsor Micawber’s Books.

—Sat., Mar. 1, 1-3pm, the Saints and Sinners Mystery Book Club meets. Join the club for discussions of good mysteries. Contact Geraldine Balter at 651-224-5570 for information about the latest titles to be discussed.

—Wed., Mar. 5, 1-3pm, the Wednesdays@1:00 series features Dr. Stephanie Digby’s intimate look at plants and fungi in her talk Botany for Non-Botanists. The presentation will include gardening tips.

—Sat., Mar. 8, 1:30-3pm, the Saturday Club has its monthly meet-up, featuring science projects for kids.


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Music Under Glass finishes up season

Posted on 15 February 2014 by robwas66

IOC_MusicUnderGlass“Music Under Glass” is a free concert series performed through Mar. 2 at the Como Park Conservatory, 1225 Esabrook Dr. Join your neighbors on Sundays in the tropical gardens and beat the “winter-blahs” from 4:30-6:30pm. Beer and wine will be available to purchase. This year’s final programs include:

• Feb. 16, “Cafe Accordion Orchestra,” swing ballads, tangos, chachas, and rumbas;

• Feb. 23, “The Ericksons,” heart-breaking and heart-warming harmonics; and

• Mar. 2, “Jack Klatt,” songs that resonate with blues, rags and jazz.

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Central Lutheran to hold “shadow” event

Central Lutheran to hold “shadow” event

Posted on 15 February 2014 by robwas66

Monitor1_14_BigNewsCentral Lutheran School, 775 N. Lexington Pkwy., is offering an opportunity on Mon., Mar. 3, for prospective students to “shadow” or visit a classroom for a two-hour block in either the morning from 9-11am or the afternoon from 12:45-2:45pm. Slots are limited and must be reserved prior to that date, by calling the school office at 612-645-8649. It will be necessary for parents to sign their child in and fill out an information form, and parents may request a meeting with the principal about school programs. Register soon, as slots are limited.

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NW Como Rec Center gears for summer

NW Como Rec Center gears for summer

Posted on 15 February 2014 by robwas66

Dec2013IOC_BaseballNorthwest Como Recreation Center, 1550 Hamline Ave. N., reports that registration for Summer Sport starts Mar. 1 (through Mar. 31) for pre-t-ball (ages 3-4), t-ball (ages 5-6), nearball (ages 7-8), machine pitch baseball (ages 7-8), baseball (ages 9-18), and softball (ages 9-14).

Classes and activities that begin in March or April include:

—Yoga for ages 6-11

—Lego Fungineering for grades 1-4

—Ballet/Creative Movement for ages 3-5

—Artist Workshop for ages 7-13

—Big and Messy Art for ages 18mo-4yrs

—Tae Kwon Do for ages 6-7 up

—Floor Hockey ages 7-12

—Youth Jam grades 5-8

To register for programs go to www.stpaul.gov/parks. For questions or to register by phone call 651-298-5813.

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Yiddish music focus of Hamline U concert

Posted on 15 February 2014 by robwas66

IOC_KlezmorimKlezmorim – fronted by violinist Judith Eisner – will be performing the mysteries of Rediscovered Yiddish Music as part of Hamline University and the Minnesota Global Art Institute’s “Roots Music: Four Corners of Europe” concert series. The event is being held at Sundin Music Hall on the Hamline University Campus, 1531 Hewitt Ave., on Sat., Feb. 22 at 7:30pm. There will be a pre-show talk at 7pm.

Eisner is a faculty member at the MacPhail Center for Music and has made the violin and klezmer her life’s work. As she explains, “Rediscovered Yiddish Music will offer audiences a rare opportunity to hear traditional klezmer music as it functioned in the rituals of the wedding. Modern klezmer music, which started after WWI with clarinet based swing bands is how most people know klezmer music. What you’ll hear at this event is something quite different!”

Tickets are $12 for adults, $8 for students, and $5 for Hamline/ACTC community members. Advanced tickets can be purchased by calling 651-523-2459.

In conjunction with this concert, there will be a free klezmer dance party on Sun., Feb. 23 from 2-4 p.m. at Hamline University’s Bush Center Ballroom (2F of the center, adjacent to Sundin Hall). The dance will be lead by Shira Schwartz.

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Extreme makeover: Seal Island edition

Posted on 15 February 2014 by robwas66


Como requests state to approve $13.8 million to update the seal and sea lion exhibit to redo Sparky’s home


Como Park Zoo and Conservatory is ready to give Sparky’s home an extreme makeover.

To move forward, Como is asking state legislators to approve $13.8 million in general obligation bonds. Another $1 million will come from private donations.

“Sparky is an ambassador for conservation education, through the 2 million plus visitors to Como Park Zoo and Conservatory each year, including 500,000 school age kids taking part of some educational programming,” said Como’s Campus Manager Michelle Furrer.

“Today we see multi-generations visiting and making connections with the animals like Sparky and our hope is that this will continue for generations.”

There was no funding set aside for Como Zoo in Gov. Mark Dayton’s proposed bonding request to the Legislature, but there was $8.9 million in transportation and access improvements for the surrounding Como Regional Park. There was, however, $53.3 million in bonding requests from the Minnesota Zoo in Apple Valley.


Currently, the seals and sea lions split their time between Seal Island in the summer and the Marine Mammal Building in the winter. Sparky is housed year-round in a separate pool from other seals and sea lions.

“Como has been a part of Minnesota’s lives for over 100 years and Sparky for nearly 60 years,” observed Furrer.

The project being planned will use the same 64,500 square feet that currently houses Seal Island and the amphitheater. However, the amount of pool area will jump from 146,000 gallons to 244,000 gallons.

When Seal Island is renovated, all the seals and sea lions will be housed together, rather than in groups of two or three. Currently, Como has six pinnipeds (the classification for seals and sea lions), and will have room for eight with the changes to their habitat area.


The outdoor exhibit for seals was originally called Monkey Island when it was built by the WPA in the 1930s. It was converted in the early 1980s into Seal Island and an amphitheater was added nearby. The habitats were not built with training in mind, nor do they meet updated standards of animal management, according to Furrer.

With its freshwater pools, Seal Island no longer meets federal requirements. The renovation plan replaces the freshwater area with two saltwater pools. These will provide zoo guests with both underwater and above water viewing, and guests will be able to see the animals in a more naturalistic habitat year round. Plus, visitors will be able to experience the operant conditioning training of the animals firsthand.

Because the current facility was not designed with training in mind, Como trainers face the challenge of needing a trainer for each animal during sessions. “This means that if there are four animals on the island, we need four trainers,” explained Senior Keeper Allison Jungheim.

The new construction will give trainers more options. Using the principals of positive enforcement, the pinnipeds at Como receive 2-3 training sessions a day, during which they get most of their daily food.

“Training is mentally stimulating and very enriching for them,” said Jungheim.


The update to Seal Island follows upon the heels of the $11 million Gorilla Forest that opened in June 2013, and the $15 million Polar Bear Odyssey that opened in June 2010.

“With the development of these last series of projects for Como, it’s not about getting bigger but doing what we do better,” said Furrer. “We want to ensure that, for generations to come, Sparky will be an ambassador for conservation and education. In order to do this updates are needed.”

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Green Line readies for June 14 opening

Posted on 15 February 2014 by robwas66


Light rail trains will start running between downtown St. Paul and Minneapolis on June 14, ending more than three decades’ debate, planning and construction.


Area residents and business owners who have watched light rail vehicles travel up and down University Avenue over the past several months now can mark their calendars. Light rail trains will start running between downtown St. Paul and Minneapolis on June 14, ending more than three decades’ debate, planning and construction. Despite brutally cold weather, many people turned out to celebrate the January 22 opening announcement near Union Depot in downtown St. Paul.

The 11-mile line, long known as the Central Corridor, will be known as the Green Line. It will be the Twin Cities’ second light rail line, opening about a decade after Minneapolis’ Hiawatha, or Blue Line, began service.

“Starting service 60 years to the month after the last streetcar left the Twin Cities is fitting,” said Metropolitan Council Chair Susan Haigh. “For me, seeing two vibrant downtowns, numerous job, education and medical centers, and, tens of thousands of people connected by this project is the most exciting part.”

Area business groups and district councils will work with Central Corridor Funders Collaborative, Metro Transit and Metropolitan Council to plan day-long celebrations all along the line for opening weekend. Celebrations are planned June 14 at Union Depot Station, Central Station, Western Ave. Station, Victoria St. Station, Hamline Ave. Station, Raymond Ave. Station, Stadium Village Station and West Bank Station. Free light rail rides offered June 14-15 to celebrate the grand opening are likely to add to the anticipated crowds.

Haigh and Polly Talen, program director for the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, and co‐chair of the Funders Collaborative, were the main speakers Jan. 22. The funders collaborative works with major foundations to support efforts along the light rail line. Talen said celebrations would be unique to each station area. The official ribbon-cutting event will be at Union Depot.

Elected officials and business leaders also praised the project Jan. 22, with Hennepin County Commissioner and chair of the Counties Transit Improvement Board Peter McLaughlin saying the line would “re-twin” the Twin Cities. Haigh in turn thanked Ramsey, Hennepin, St. Paul and Minneapolis officials for their efforts toward the project and in promoting economic development along the line.

The train will serve 18 stations in Minneapolis and St. Paul, and will connect both downtown as well as the University of Minnesota, Midway, State Capitol and Union Depot. By 2030 Metropolitan Council projections are that more than 40,000 people will ride the train each weekday. The most recent figures for Routes 16 and 50 buses, which cover the line now, were 24,000 weekday riders in 2010. The Route 50 bus will be eliminated when light rail starts running. Route 16 will have changes at its east end.

The $957 million line is 98 percent complete and is on budget. Its opening date is six months sooner than required by the Federal Transit Administration. Federal dollars paid for about half of the project, with state, local and regional funds making up the rest. The opening date is about one month before the July 15 Major Leaguer All-Star Game at Target Field in downtown Minneapolis.

In terms of construction, the largest projects remaining are completion of a stairway-elevator tower in downtown St. Paul and a power-traction station in Lowertown. Some public art at stations also has to be installed. Testing of the 46 train cars to be used for the Green Line is continuing, along with testing and checks of traffic signal, communications and catenary wires. Those along the line will see stepped-up train testing starting this month.

According to Metropolitan Council, the light rail project created 5,445 construction jobs and $252 million in construction payroll. Workers came from more than 60 Minnesota counties. The project also created 177 permanent operations and maintenance jobs for downtown St. Paul.

One Met Council claim is that the line has already spurred more than $1.7 billion in development along the line. But the line also created hardship for businesses along University Ave. and in downtown St. Paul. Some businesses closed while others cut hours or laid off employees.

Much outreach is being done to discuss bus route changes that will take place when the line opens and in the future. A few routes will be cut back, such as elimination of I-94 bus service on weekends and the end of Route 144. But other routes will be extended or added, In January, Summit Hill residents met to discuss the new Lexington Pkwy. bus line, which will run the length of Lexington. The line has received a generally favorable response from neighborhood residents and business owners.

Metro Transit hosted an A Line bus rapid transit open house in January at the Ramsey County Library in Roseville, drawing dozens of people to view plans for the region’s first planned bus rapid transit line. Although it won’t open until late 2015, transit officials see bus rapid transit as a key connection for north-south destinations along Snelling Ave., from Rosedale Mall to the Blue Line’s 46th St. station in Minneapolis.

More information about the Green Line is available at www.metrotransit.org/greenline.

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Longtime St. Paul company to run Como Golf Course

Posted on 15 February 2014 by robwas66

City Council approves 5-year agreement with Prom Management Group


Bill and his brother Tom Given were born and raised in St. Paul. “We have a very rich history in St. Paul, spanning more than three generations,” said Bill. Although Prom is now based out of Oakdale, it began in St. Paul at the old Prom Ballroom on University Ave.


As a boy, Bill Given of Prom Management Group, Inc. played golf at Como. As a man, he and his brother will be running things.

St. Paul has reached a five-year agreement with Prom Management Group to manage both Como and Phalen golf courses. The city council approved the agreement at its Jan. 22 meeting on a 4-3 vote, with Councilmembers Bostrom, Thune and Tolbert voting against it.

“I am most excited to see this new adventure become successful and profitable for both our company and the city,” said Given. “If we can accomplish this, and provide exemplar customer service and products, this will be a win for everyone, including those who pay taxes in the city and do not play golf.”


Bill and his brother Tom were born and raised in St. Paul. “We have a very rich history in St. Paul, spanning more than three generations,” said Given.

The company began in the 1940s when their father, Harry Given, visited the original Prom Ballroom on University Ave. to do advertising and promotion for the popular dance hall. After a few years, Harry became the general manager, and eventually the owner.

During the late 1980s, Tom and Bill brought the company from their father and shifted it into catering, event management and concessions operations. They operated out of the Prom Expo Center on Smith Ave. in St. Paul, and became involved in the catering aspects of local and national PGA tournaments. As the business grew, they expanded into a new 40,000-square-foot facility in Oakdale.

Today, Prom Management Group caters to over 30 golf tournaments nationwide, including the: PGA Tour, Champion’s Tour, USGA National Championships, the LPGA Tour, the U.S. Open, U.S. Women’s Open, The Players Championship, The Presidents Cup and the 3M Championship-TPC of the Twin Cities in Blaine, Minn.

“We took over Theodore Wirth in Minneapolis and Columbia in Minneapolis seven years ago, and have doubled the food and beverage revenues in that time,” said Bill. “We have expanded food options, specials, beverage options, as well as service and catered offerings that the patrons never had previous to our arrival.

“Many years ago, we did the same at Keller Golf course, and we have been very successful at that venue for 28 years.”


Como will represent a new business venture for Prom, as it will be the first time they have managed tasks outside food and special events, but the Givens are looking forward to the prospect.

“This is a natural expansion of our golf interests, and a platform that we believe will have many more opportunities,” said Bill. “We believe we can deliver a better customer service experience for our patrons, expand menu and food and beverage options, and still produce a profit. I am most excited about the structure and development of this new business segment.”


Prom will assume total financial responsibility for losses or gains at the golf courses. Prom will pay the city 4% of gross revenues from both courses, with a minimum guaranteed amount of $65,000 (regardless of performance). The city’s total annual payment will increase from the minimum annual guarantee if gross revenues totaled more than $875,000 at Phalen, and/or $750,000 at Como, in a season.

Prom will be required to provide the city with monthly financial performance statements and an annual financial report.

While Prom will set the rates at the golf courses, the city will have final approval.

Prom may use the current city-owned turf maintenance equipment and furniture, fixtures and equipment at each course, but will be responsible for repairing and maintaining it.

The city will contribute $30,000 per course each year for capital improvements. Meanwhile, Prom will spend $10,000 per course for the first three years, and $20,000 per course for the remaining two years.

The city will continue to operate the ski program at Como and the cross-country grooming at Phalen during the winter.

About 20 full-time unionized public employees who work at the Phalen and Como courses will be affected by this agreement. Most will be reassigned to work at the Highland courses filling positions previously being held by temporary/seasonal/out of title workers. The staff that are impacted have been officially notified of any changes to their existing positions, and only a few will not have a position, pointed out Brad Meyer of the Parks and Recreation Department. Some opted to retire. The city will eliminate all operating liability, and after all expenses are factored in, the net benefit of the agreement will be in the range of $400k annually.

The city’s golf deficit grew to more than $7 million in 2013. According to parks and recreation staff, getting this draft agreement in place and eliminating the operating liability at Como and Phalen were essential to maintaining the city’s AAA credit rating.

“So this agreement with Prom that eliminates losses and allows the courses to stay open with enhanced food and beverage options is the best case scenario in this situation,” said Meyer.


The Givens believe they can do a better job than the city at running the golf courses, in part because they will be able to promote more events (such as weddings, golf tournaments, etc.), and drive revenues in a way that a city can’t.

Prom plans to get liquor licenses in order to give patrons more choices and keep the golfers after their rounds.

“We also plan to offer some new pricing options to try to fill open tee times,” said Bill.

The Givens expect challenges. “Both courses will always be challenged with weather – it’s obviously one thing we cannot control,” said Bill.

Additionally, the clubhouse configuration and space at Como is not ideal for promoting any catering or even expanding food and beverage service. However, the Givens intend to add outside seating and furniture that is rain resistant, and improve options on the beverage carts to counteract these negatives.

Because Como does not have a driving range, the Givens know that expanding golf to the public and trying to gain new golfers will be difficult.

“As you know, the golf population has been shrinking over the past 10 years. We are going to try to make the experience easier, less stressful, and more enjoyable,” said Given.

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