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Vikings projects announced

Good Neighbor funds will go to projects in Como, Cedar-Riverside and Marcy-Holmes.

Slacklines in Van Cleve Park, increased lighting in campus neighborhoods and a youth program in Cedar-Riverside are a few of the projects that received funding from the 2014 Good Neighbor Fund.

This year, six projects will receive more than $115,400 in cash and in-kind donations. The fund began with an endowment from the TCF Bank Stadium project to sponsor proposals benefiting the surrounding neighborhoods. As part of the Vikings’ agreement to play on campus next year, the team agreed to contribute $90,000 in cash and up to $35,000 in in-kind donations per season to fund projects with “significant scale and visibility.”

University of Minnesota Community Relations Director and Fund Management Committee member Jan Morlock said the committee based its decisions on each project’s feasibility, readiness for implementation and potential benefits for the community.

“The purpose of the fund is to enhance the beauty, serenity and security of the communities that are in the campus area,” she said.

Vikings spokesman Jeff Anderson said he thinks the six selected projects represent the strongest applications.

“It was a collaborative process, a lot of hard work,” he said. “We were thrilled with the projects that were selected.”

Increasing game-day business

Anderson said the Vikings were especially excited to work with the commercial associations in Stadium Village, Dinkytown and the West Bank to market the area to fans and create viable opportunities for them to explore the campus area before and after games.

The associations asked for in-kind donations to make an area map highlighting restaurants, bars, tailgating spots and parking lots. The Vikings will put all the information in their mobile app as well, Anderson said, so fans can have it on the go.

“We want to be a good neighbor while we’re there,” he said. “We appreciate the hospitality, both from the University and from the neighborhoods.”

Funding the Cedar-Riverside Explorers

One of the projects that Anderson said fit particularly well into the Vikings’ goals for the fund was the Cedar-Riverside Explorers program from the West Bank Community Coalition.

The program received $8,000 to recruit 15 to 20 high school students in the neighborhood to experience music, theater, and sporting and educational events and then write reflections on their excursions.

West Bank Community Coalition Executive Director Hussein Ahmed said the program’s main goal is to empower youth in the community to set higher goals for themselves.

“We need to bring these kids into the mindset of education and change the culture of just merely existing or just living in the neighborhood,” he said.

Program volunteers from the University of Minnesota and Augsburg College will help mentor the youth and serve as role models, Ahmed said.

“Our hope is to create a youth that is actually in touch with other students or peers who are in college so they can be inspired and ask questions,” he said.

Encouraging recreation programs

In the Southeast Como neighborhood, community members will have more to do in Van Cleve Park.

Neighborhood Coordinator Ricardo McCurley said the neighborhood’s $25,900 allotment will fund 10 different sports and academic sessions, each a week long, with the goal of introducing youth to sports activities and testing to see if those activities are viable for long-term programs at the park.

“We’re giving young people who are there more opportunities to explore different things other than just what’s available now,” McCurley said.

Activities for youth will include lacrosse, archery, theater, writing, free running and slacklining — an activity like tightrope walking, but closer to the ground. The park will also begin offering aerobics and yoga programs for seniors, McCurley said.

“We want to make the park just a little bit more vibrant for all age groups,” he said. “The goal is to make it so that more people are coming to the park and interacting with each other.”

Enhancing the Dinkytown Greenway

Marcy-Holmes received the most funding with a proposal to enhance the Dinkytown Greenway with trail improvements and recreational areas.

Marcy-Holmes Neighborhood Association President Cordelia Pierson said newcomers may find the area hard to navigate. More identification, public art, plants and recreational activities, she said, could help improve accessibility and strengthen community relationships.

The project will be completed in two stages, with final results in spring 2016.

Anderson said the Vikings are excited to see how the projects materialize in the next couple of years and look forward to coming to the University area.

“We know it’s a big transition; it is for the Vikings as well,” he said. “But this is one of those cool pieces where you can leave a lasting impact.”

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