The Free Press, Mankato, MN

March 1, 2014

Y eyes fire hall for temporary skate park

Station No. 1 the top choice

By Robb Murray
rmurray@mankatofreepress.com

---- — MANKATO — Mankato's hottest place to skateboard could soon be the fire station along Madison Avenue.

Mankato Family YMCA CEO John Kind said he's reached a tentative deal with the city to use what used to be known as Fire Station No. 1 near Franklin Elementary School on the north side of the city.

Kind and a team of folks, including kids who used Chesley Roller Sport Park before it burned down Feb. 1, toured the fire station and found it would be an ideal temporary place for the kids to skateboard.

Prior to the fire, the park had been closed for about a month for renovations. It was set to open within a few days when a fire of unknown origin claimed it. Investigators from the State Fire Marshal's office were unable to determine its cause.

Several dozen kids considered the park their home away from home, and Y officials said immediately they'd do whatever they could to get them a place to skate again.

Kind said they considered several locations, including the city's former bus garage, which will soon be home to the Southern Minnesota Children's Museum. That location, though, didn't work because museum renovation already has begun.

They also looked at space in Madison East Center next to Jo-Ann Fabric and Craft Store. That location, though, didn't have heat or lighting, and it would have cost the Y a lot to make that location work.

The next option was the fire hall, an option that was actually one of the first the city proposed.

"When we actually went and looked at it, we decided it would be a place that could work." Kids who checked out the space thought it would work really well, Kind said.

One issue that remains unknown is how the neighborhood will react to an influx of skateboarders.

"My intention is to have a neighborhood meeting," he said. "We want to be a good neighbor to the people who live in that neighborhood and as the Y we will insist that we're a good neighbor."

The City Council must approve the Y's use of the facility at its Monday meeting. If approved, the Y will pay all utility bills and not be allowed to make any changes to the property without city permission.

Staff will be on site during all times when it is open. Hours will be the same as the Chesley hours. He hopes to have it open for skating within a month.

The fire station, Kind said, is not part of any permanent solution equations. But it's a solid temporary one, he said.

"Unfortunately, they're taking out the fire pole. The kids were were a little disappointed when they heard that."