Thoughts of new stadium revitalize Stadium Village

New tenants in Stadium Village Mall mark the beginning of development.

Diane White

It’s been a long time since Stadium Village has had a football stadium, and area businesses are getting excited.

Jim Rosvold, Stadium Village Commercial Association President, said the new stadium plans have brought back memories to longtime business owners in the area. They remember the hype of game days at Memorial Stadium, the last on-campus facility for the University’s football team.

Though he wasn’t around during that era, Rosvold said people tell tales of 40,000-plus crowds shopping, eating and hanging out in Stadium Village before and after games.

He said he predicts – or at least hopes for – the same crowds of Gopher fans in the future.

“For those six Saturdays, it’s going to be crazy,” Rosvold said of home game days.

And though many businesses have come and gone in Stadium Village, things seem to be heating up with the leasing of vacant spaces.

Tony Strauss, senior associate with the NAI Welsh commercial real estate firm, which bought Stadium Village Mall on Washington Avenue, said it took some beautifying, but the building is now ready for its new tenants.

Raising Cane’s restaurant and The Tea Garden will take over the first floor, and an apartment’s leasing office will use the second floor space until May 2008. Another restaurant is desired for the space in the future, Strauss said.

With the recent competition for the vacant spaces and the much-needed updates, Strauss called the leasing process long.

“We had to do a lot of construction to make it more appealing,” he said.

The first floor and former home to Perry’s Pizza needed a new ceiling and floor. What used to be the Student Union Offices on the second floor also needed some attention.

Finally, the entire storefront was worked on in order to open things up to the street, which included adding a balcony to the second floor, Strauss said.

The stadium itself isn’t necessarily expected to bring in more business, he said. The traffic is already there.

Strauss said the stadium, along with other University sports venues, will work together to enhance the economy of the entire area.

Besides the stadium, the new roadways should help divert game-goers just a few blocks over to this new hot spot, Strauss said.

Since there’s no real room for another strip mall closer to the stadium, additional value is being placed on the property in the area.

“I definitely expect more development along Washington Avenue in the future,” Strauss said.

Current tenants in Strauss’s building are expected to stay, though he said On the Go PC is relocating in the fall, which is when the two new restaurants will move in.

Nick Nguyen feels his family’s business, The Tea Garden, will be a good fit in the area since their other two locations, in St. Paul and Uptown, already bring in many University students.

“It’s a great place to study,” he said, and a safe alternative to the bar scene.

Besides an assortment of teas and preparation methods – ice, latté, smoothies and coolers – Nguyen said The Tea Garden’s bubble tea, which he described as a “unique Asian dessert drink,” is its standout.

The business also has catered foods, mostly desserts and sandwiches, bought from other local businesses.

“We’re looking forward to exposing a whole new area to our products,” Nguyen said, an opinion shared by the other new tenant.

“We’re excited to move up there near the Gophers,” said Raising Cane’s general manager Barb Pasquale.

Pasquale manages the Apple Valley location, the only Raising Cane’s store so far in Minnesota.

What makes Raising Cane’s stand out is the quality of products, Pasquale said.

The only protein served is chicken and specifically the best portion, the tenderloin.

In addition to the chicken strips, Pasquale recommended French fries, homemade coleslaw and secret “Cane sauce.”

Kerry Kramp, former chief executive officer of Old Country and Home Town Buffet said he and his partner Dale Maxfield, are the driving forces behind the franchising of Raising Cane’s locations in Minnesota.

Kramp said the University’s location will be one of four new stores opening by college campuses this fall, making 21 of the 60 stores near or on a campus.

He said they began looking for possible locations about two and a half years ago, shortly after Strauss’s company had bought the property.

The stadium-to-come and location near student housing made it appealing, Kramp said.

“It was the best of all situations,” he said, adding they held out for the corner spot.

Kramp is hopeful that things will be ready to go by mid-November or, at the latest, by the end of the year.