Updated: WhirlyBall Plans Approved by Maple Grove City Council

The City Council approved PUD Development Stage Plans for WhirlyBall Twin Cities.

Update April 17, 2012

At a short meeting Monday, the  City Council approved a PUD Concept Amendment and PUD Development Stage Plan relating to a proposed new WhirlyBall business located on the  site. 

The City Council, acting on an earlier planning commission recommendation, only asked a few questions about the potential new business. Councilmember Karen Jaeger asked about safety waivers and alcohol consumption and Councilmember Phil Leith asked a question about the WhirlyBall business ownership. 

The 4-0 approvals by the City Council (Councilmember Erik Johnson was absent) gives WhirlyBall Center permission to re-occupy the Maple Grove Cinema (Mann Theatre) building, according to a memo to the Council. Including a related sports bar and dining area, laser-tag arena and meeting party rooms. It also allows remaining space to possibly be leased out in the future.

A call to Mann Theatre for comment has not yet been returned. 

Read more about WhirlyBall and the earlier planning commission action April 9 in the article below. 

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Original article April 13, 2012

If you’ve never heard of WhirlyBall, you’re not alone. Many of Maple Grove’s Planning Commission members had never heard of it either, until WhirlyBall franchise owner Nick Lambrecht proposed to transform Maple Grove's into a new WhirlyBall arena.

In a 5-0 vote, the Planning Commission agreed [April 9] to recommend the Maple Grove City Council approve the PUD development stage plan for the new business. If the City Council approves the plans, Minnesota's first WhirlyBall center might open this year.  

In an interview with Patch, Community Development Director Dick Edwards said that while Mann Theatres is currently still open, "ultimately the theater will no longer function." As of 3 p.m. April 11, a call to Mann Theatres by Patch for comment was not returned.

In Planning Commission documents, Edwards noted that WhirlyBall's proposed building plans include laser tag facilities, meeting rooms and restaurant. The proposed WhirlyBall center would take up almost all of the 33,000 square foot building, leaving 3,900 square feet of vacant space that could be leased to another business at a later date. According to Edwards, parking needs would be evaluated at that time.

"The re-occupancy of the theater will involve significant internal renovation," Edwards said. "But the exterior of the building will remain largely intact."

WhirlyBall is a game where two teams of five players use a lacrosse stick and a ball to try to score a goal. The catch? Players toss the ball while driving bumper cars, or "WhirlyBugs." According to WhirlyBall’s website, the idea for the game originated in Illinois when Chicago resident Sam Elias wanted something fun to do during the winter.

Lambrecht gave the game a whirl when he played it at a corporate event while working in Chicago. "I enjoyed it so much that I thought it would be fun to bring the game up to Minnesota, where I’m originally from," Lambrecht said.

Planning Commission Member Larry Colson expressed concerns about safety. “What happens if someone tries to step out of the car during the game?” he asked.

“While the floors are electrified, it’s a very low voltage,” Lambrecht said. “You can’t get shocked.”

Lambrecht also mentioned that all players must wear a seatbelt. If they remove the seatbelt during the game, the referee can interfere and stop the cars.

Last October Lambrecht tried to bring WhirlyBall to Eden Prairie, but the property was sold to another business.

The Maple Grove City Council is scheduled to hear to issue and approve or deny the request for PUD Concept Amendment and PUD Development Stage Plan at the Monday, April 16 regular City Council meeting. For additional details, check out the April 16 City Coucnil agenda here

JoAnn White April 13, 2012 at 01:13 PM
I'm sorry, I'd rather have the theatre.
Cassie April 13, 2012 at 02:46 PM
The theatre is a great family thing where ALL ages can access it - this clearly looks like an age restricted activity.
Kimberly April 13, 2012 at 05:06 PM
A bigger demographic can and does enjoy the Mann Theatre. This "sport" sounds like it will be here today and gone tomorrow so it would appear more prudent to pick a different venue that wouldn't negatively impact something enjoyed by the general populous.
Steph April 13, 2012 at 08:40 PM
I agree with these comments. The Mann Theatre is a low-cost family entertainment venue that is enjoyed by many Maple Grove residents. Is the theatre having financial difficulties, or is Whirlyball and the Planning Commission just trying to force a sale?
Josh April 13, 2012 at 09:12 PM
I used to live in Chicago and they have whirly ball there. I've only played once, but it was fun. we had people from roughly 18/19 up to probably 50's range (i'm guessing how old my friend's parents were at that point). it was a great time and there were other activities like video games and pool tables for anyone who wasn't able to play (no one in our group). I love movies, but that theater isn't the best. it's a great value, but not amazing for movies. I'll take a chance on a new activity vs a mid-low end theater. if this was the only theater, maybe i'd cast a vote differently, but since AMC is still there, there's definitely room in MG for variety. Plus there's been a for sale sign at that theater for roughly a year, if not more. So something was going to happen (theater no longer there, another business, vacant building, etc). I just re-read the article and it also says that the theater was no longer going to function. So it isn't like this whirly ball is pushing them out. They are just making use of a location. I know I had a lot of fun playing and have wanted to play again since (almost did on my last trip but the place was booked the entire weekend. another pointer that it isn't really a fad. they've been around for years). I'm hoping it stays around because I think it will add business to the area (being unique). I may be biased, since i've played the game, but i see it as a positive bias, not negative. For record I'm 33.
Sara April 15, 2012 at 12:09 AM
I've booked parties at the WhirlyBall in Chicago - our company has their party there every year! It's always been a great time incorporating team building and interacting on and off the court. I'm very excited to tell my co-workers that's it coming to Maple Grove - for our next local outing.
Nicole M. April 18, 2012 at 01:08 AM
STUPID. As an upper 20-s mother of 4, when first reading this article I thought it was going to be an arcade type place, laser tag, mini golf, rock climbing, etc. and thought COOL, perfect for families in MG..... but bumper car lacrosse!? Are you serious!? I hope the city takes its resident's opinions into consideration. I think most people would way rather have a 'budget' theater to enjoy some low cost entertainment.
Corey April 18, 2012 at 01:52 AM
It sounds like a good idea to me. If it doesn't sound like a fit for your family, you have the choice to stay away!
Corey April 18, 2012 at 01:57 AM
They aren't pushing Mann Theatre out. It sounds like Mann Theatre is no longer making money in this location. Besides, the last time I was at the Mann Theatre, it was getting pretty ghetto!
Troy April 19, 2012 at 03:43 PM
This building has been up for sale for a long time. At one point there was word that a high rise office building was going to be built there. So either way, the theater was leaving. This will be a great place for kids and adults to be entertained.
Bill April 25, 2012 at 04:02 PM
I wonder what the space will be after Whirly Bird goes out of business?
Wendy Erlien April 26, 2012 at 04:33 AM
I'm curious, Bill...why do you think wouldn't do well? Do you think it's the area? Business model?
Rob April 28, 2012 at 12:27 AM
Mann was in bankruptcy anyways and the property had been for sale for quite some time - even while the movies were still being shown. Whirlyball is wicked awesome. It is great for parties for teens and up. If the facility is going to have la-la-la-lazer tag, game watches, mini-golf and other arcade games and food, so much the better. Just because the place has an option to serve alcohol, doesn't mean it is going to be a booze-fueled dive bar. If that logic held, Applebee's would be waaaaay more fun. I hope that people give this place a try, and I hope it does well. I look forward to the change. Minneapolis needs some more unique and fun places. Think of Whirlyball as a little bit of hot sauce compared to the rather bland palate of "inside" MSP activities.
Jon McCullough April 30, 2012 at 02:51 AM
So sad to see my wife's and my favorite theatre closing for something that doesn't appeal to us. Nor can I see it appealing to the masses on a regular basis. Try once "ohh cool" now done never to become a repeat customer.
Jon McCullough April 30, 2012 at 02:52 AM
Rob suggests mini-golf... if they do that and some other family friendly items they will certainly change it into a family friendly environment!
Becky Zufall May 07, 2012 at 02:18 PM
I agree, I can see it being cool the first time and then will probably be too expensive to go again and again, just like everything else. The Mann theater is a great place for a family of 4+ to see a movie. The AMC theater is WAY too expensive. I say anything that would be an inexpensive alternative for families, like mini-golf, would be a better use of the space. Each year, activities become too expensive for families to do together. It's sad to see the Theater go.
Dtrain May 23, 2012 at 07:55 PM
When I lived in Detroit, we used to play Whirlyball in Ann Arbor, MI. Great fun if you can get a group of 10 together- doesn't take much skill and who doesn't love bumper cars? Will miss the cheap movie tickets though- too bad they couldn't have moved into the old Target location instead.
Derek May 24, 2012 at 07:05 PM
As someone who has played in the whirlyball nationals for 10 years and have managed both the north texas locations i can tell you whirlyball has staying power and great for families. Whirlyball centers usually run birthday parties for kids 8 and up. They do corperate team building as well. Also whirlyball has been around since the early 80s
Ann June 27, 2012 at 02:36 AM
Movie studios are forcing theaters to upgrade to digital (really expensive), and those that don’t upgrade aren’t going to have films to show. Mann said they had no interest in upgrading this discount theater (link below). This is happening to lots of theaters. If not whirlyball, something else was going to go in there. Whirly ball sounds fun. I am glad we’re getting a place for entertainment rather than more shopping! http://www.bizjournals.com/twincities/print-edition/2012/05/04/manns-slp-theater-will-stay-open-go.html?page=all
Lisa July 12, 2012 at 09:21 PM
Whirly ball is great, it attracts all kinds of parties, corporate, kids, adults. I think it's going to be a great addition to Maple Grove. Can't wait until it opens !
Sylvie Thao Osburn November 25, 2012 at 10:06 PM
Are some of these comments from whirlyball employees or what??
Fred Sanford March 18, 2013 at 10:30 PM
Could there be a worse idea and a bigger waste of potential in MG? The old Mann was a dump 5 years after it opened, thanks for closing. Now it is going to be "offered" as a solution to get some use out of the location with this dopey idea. I side with Osburns comments...it must be Whirly Balls employees making some of these comments. As a 35 year resident of MG I do not see any future for this business or any comments supporting it. Hey MG residents, welcome back to the 70's.


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