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Donnelly Development LLC Planning a $152 million Destination
 Entertainment Facility In Blaine, Minnesota; Includes Indoor
 Water Park and 400 to 500 room Hotel

By Susan Feyder, Star Tribune, MinneapolisMcClatchy-Tribune Regional News

Nov. 7, 2007 -- An Edina developer has revived and nearly doubled plans for a recreation and retail development near the National Sports Center in Blaine that would include a water park-hotel complex, a sports training facility, restaurants, shops and a family-oriented entertainment center.

Blaine's City Council on Thursday is expected to hear details of the proposed 30-acre project, called SportsTown USA, from Donnelly Development LLC.

Bryan Schafer, director of planning and community development for the city, said work could begin on the project as early as the middle of next year. He said a number of issues still need to be resolved, including a decision on whether the city will help finance the $152 million project and the acquisition of some parcels.

Schafer said the project offers Blaine the opportunity to have a "destination entertainment facility" that would be unique in the Twin Cities and complement the National Sports Center.

"This is very different from a general retail center and could draw a lot of people into the community," Schafer said.

The complex would be sharply focused on sports and recreation, with general retail accounting for only about 5 percent of the 500,000 total square feet, according to a recent memo by Schafer to the City Council. The memo says the complex could employ about 2,000 people when fully developed.

A smaller version of the complex was first proposed by Bloomington-based Frauenshuh Companies in 2005, when Blaine was also being targeted for a new Vikings stadium and associated development. The Vikings later decided not to build in Blaine, and Frauenshuh didn't go forward with its Sports Center plan, which was intended to cover 16 acres.

The plan got new life earlier this year when John Donnelly, a former executive with Frauenshuh's commercial division, formed his own development company and took over responsibility for the proposed project.

Donnelly said Tuesday that he hopes to have a hotel operator selected by next month. He expects the hotel, which will be attached to the 80,000-square-foot indoor water park, would have 400 to 500 rooms. That would be a significant increase for the city, which currently has only about 110 rooms, according to Schafer.

Donnelly said he would expect the hotel to draw both business travelers and guests using the National Sports Center with its 52 soccer fields, a 12,000-seat outdoor stadium and indoor sports hall.

Donnelly said other SportsTown USA tenants would include Competitive Edge Sports, a Georgia-based operator of sports training facilities; Flagship Fitness, a Twin Cities-based operator of family-oriented sports and recreation centers, and Fat Cats, a Utah-based operator of dining and entertainment centers.

Donnelly said the development also would include a 6.4-acre lake that could be used for paddle-boating and ice skating. There also would be a "ceremonial square" for medal ceremonies and special events.

Donnelly said financing for the land has been arranged, as have terms of a construction loan. But he also believes that some sort of public financing is warranted for the project, parts of which will create "a significant community space" with benefits to the city.

Susan Feyder --612-673-1723

Susan Feyder


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