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Pickleball craze breathes new life into old downtown Minneapolis office buildings

Susan Du, Star Tribune on

Published in Home and Consumer News

At 825 LaSalle Av., Ben Krsnak of Hempel Real Estate is constructing a pickleball court in the former Rock Bottom Brewery, which left downtown Minneapolis in 2022. The ceilings are just high enough and the columns far enough apart to make it work.

The court is part of LaSalle Plaza's amenity makeover, which will ultimately include an infrared sauna, roof deck with grills and new slate of conference rooms.

"We wanted something that would have broad appeal," Krsnak said. "The more we can have a total solution for our prospective clients, the better position we're going to be in."

Since Mark Brabec retired, he hasn't had many reasons to drive to Minneapolis. One of his daughters had been subletting an apartment in northeast Minneapolis when civil unrest broke out, and he persuaded her to move home to Excelsior. But since the Minneapolis Pickleball Club opened in December, Brabec and his friends started hanging out downtown again, dining at EaTo and Kindee Thai, and looking forward to exploring more.

"We've probably done as much in the last three months as we have in the last three years," Brabec said.

Libby Simones downsized into downtown Minneapolis a few years before the pandemic interrupted her plans for a carefree retirement. Now she feels her downtown social life is back, thanks in large part to her WhatsApp group of about 80 women pickleball players from across the metro.


"Honestly, to the person, there is no one that doesn't think that it is a superior playing environment at Minneapolis Pickleball Club," said Simones, referring to the no-glare lighting, gentle acoustics, and willingness of the Marinovich family to make adjustments based on feedback. "They're very open and receptive and friendly, and the feeling of our entire big group is that they're just wonderful to deal with."

Marinovich's stepson Miles Harmening, a California college student who built the club's business model and plans to return to Minneapolis after graduation to help run it, credits its popularity to passionate founding members who peppered local condo bulletin boards with flyers and helped create the logo.

"That's kind of the backbone of the pickleball community," he said. "The second part is people really get super excited for any new facility, and I think everyone really wants it to work."

(Star Tribune staff writer Jim Buchta contributed to this report.)

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