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

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