Hennepin County awarded another round of youth athletic grants, this time in the amount of $1.1 million for facility improvements, the purchase of small equipment and playground equipment and water safety courses.
Since 2009, Hennepin County has awarded more than $29 million for such grants. Funding comes from the Target Field sales tax, which also helps pay for additional services at 15 libraries. Grants this year included the small town of Loretto and the American Indian Center in Minneapolis.
“I love that the county invests in creating healthy and active communities,” said Marion Greene, chair of the Hennepin County Board of Directors.
Each year, the county distributes two rounds of youth athletic grants totaling $2 million. They can be awarded to cities or to parks and school districts. Depending on the application, grants range from $1,000 to $300,000.
Grant award criteria vary by venue, playground and equipment requests. For facilities, some of the criteria included population characteristics, project sustainability, and inclusion of environmental improvements. The county lists several examples of potential projects, including baseball, softball, soccer, football and lacrosse fields, tennis courts, hockey rinks, playgrounds and skate parks.
For playground grants, guidelines include estimated number of annual visits, funds to match total cost, and local community support. Examples of equipment grants range from turf maintenance to basketball backboards. The county requires grant recipients to acknowledge the award on project signage.
“We are looking to match funds for grant applications to help projects cross the finish line,” Greene said. “We are measuring how our investment will help.”
This year’s grant recipients include:
- City of Crystal, $80,000 at Fair School Park
- Town of Loretto, $49,500 to the Loretto Sports Complex and Recreational Park
- City of Robbinsdale, $22,500 to Lee Park Building
- Town of Tonka Bay, $300,000 to Manitou Park
- Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board, $300,000 to Folwell Park
- Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board, $100,000 to Whittier Park
- Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board, $300,000 to the Minneapolis American Indian Center
- Minneapolis Public Schools, $300,000 to Anderson United Middle School
In recent years, grants have been awarded for pickleball courts, lighting for baseball stadiums, mountain bike trails and improvements to aquatic facilities. In 2019, the county donated nearly $600,000 for an outdoor youth hockey Olympics ice refrigeration system at Urban Ventures Field and an artificial turf sports field at North High School in Minneapolis.
- The initial 2009 grants continue to impact diverse communities. Brooklyn Park received $210,000 to convert a baseball field into a soccer field at Zanewood School Park. Corcoran received $10,000 for two tee-ball fields.
“What’s great about this program is that it reflects the changing desires of a neighborhood,” Greene said.
Going to ribbon cuttings and tours of these projects is a fun part of her job as curator, she said. She ticked off a list of projects she saw, such as converting land at Elliott Park in Minneapolis to enable a new sport. She also saw repaired tennis courts in Southwest Minneapolis and a new weight room for Southwest High School in Minneapolis.
“It was great to see how the weight room got more students into fitness,” she said. “The program isn’t just about making things better for varsity teams. It’s about meeting all the young people where they are.”
The youth grant program also meets the county’s goal of reducing racial disparities. Part of the program is to fund free swimming lessons, which have been deemed necessary in racially diverse communities.