Off Beat

The More Things Change

AMID A FRESH push to build a new Twins baseball stadium and rumblings from the Vikings about the bad things we can expect if they don't get their own new arena, University of Minnesota football coach Glen Mason is talking up yet another new sports facility he thinks taxpayers should underwrite: an open-air, on-campus Gophers football stadium. Mason even suggested that state surplus could bankroll it. The reports got Off Beat to thinking wistfully about the open-air, on-campus Memorial Stadium where the Gophers played from 1924 until 1981. In the latter year, the U's Board of Regents decided that a then-estimated $10 million was just too high a price to pay for renovating the old brick house, prompting the team's move into the shiny new Metrodome in 1982. Ten years later, the venerable but neglected U-shaped stadium was torn down and bricks were sold off as souvenirs. Mason hasn't said how much the nostalgic facility would cost.

Siren Song

IN THE LATEST issue of Siren, music editor Katherine Kelly told readers that what made their paper different from other media was a willingness to listen and respond to feedback. Indeed, the biweekly's eclectic approach often resulted in pieces ranging in scope and levity from a quirky debate over what's better, ketchup or salsa, to analyses of such topics as claims of police brutality. "We're changing all the time," Kelly wrote. "Help us keep changing for the better." A few days after that issue of the paper hit the streets, staff were surprised by the biggest change yet. Just two months shy of its one-year anniversary, the biweekly was closing its doors. "We had been pursuing financing for quite a while and we didn't get what we had planned on," says operations manager Camille Holthaus. "We decided it was time to shut down. So we went and told staff right away. People were sad and shocked." Even as staffers were emptying desks, Don Poll, one of the paper's founders, held out hope. "We will continue to seek funding from other sources, because we still think we've got an opportunity," he says. "We wanted to incite conversation and provide tools for people to connect with others across communities. I believe we did that. And yesterday, when everyone walked away, they took a piece of that with them."

I Got a Name

MINNESOTA SUPREME COURT candidate Greg Wersal--Greg Carlson Wersal, that is--just might be the hardest-campaigning judicial candidate in the state's history. Fresh from winning the right to adopt his wife's Scandinavian maiden name during this year's campaign, Wersal hasn't wound down his public-relations machine. A recent Wersal press release explains that the perennial dark horse is actually named Gregory Fremont Edward Carlson Wersal. The missive raised more questions than it answered, however, by quoting the Bible to explain how he came by the name Edward: "When I became a man, I put childish ways behind me" (1 Corinthians 13:11). Still confused, Off Beat telephoned Wersal, who told us he took the second middle name "when I confirmed my faith," but declined to name the faith or explain the significance of Edward. Why not run using all five names? "I think it would sound presumptuous." He did want to talk about his campaign theme: "Even the cows know judicial elections are a lot of bull." Indeed, he shouted into his cell phone, to illustrate his point, he was standing on the front steps of a courthouse in Mankato with a five-and-a-half-foot plywood cow. What about that cow, Off Beat inquired. Does it have a name? "We'll call the cow Carlson; that's a good idea."

Coke Dealers

BURNSVILLE STUDENTS ARE Pepsi drinkers. But in the Apple Valley-Eagan-Rosemount district and in Prior Lake, it's Coke. Forget those dull bond referendums; the latest scheme for increasing funding to public schools is a multimillion-dollar contract giving soft-drink vendors exclusive rights to market to a captive pool of thirsty students. Osseo schools are closing in on a ten-year Pepsi contract that could net nearly $3 million. With so much cash at stake, it's not surprising that Minneapolis is discussing whether to sign a contract, and whether the nod should go to Coke or Pepsi. Board member Ross Taylor believes the board will green-light a deal. "I think it's a slam dunk," he says. "But we don't want to enter into a high-pressure promotion campaign and send the message that we want kids to start drinking more Coke or Pepsi. We don't want to sell our souls." Which is exactly what could happen, warns Madison school board member Ruth Robards. She plans to vote against renewing her district's contract, charging that schools were expected to sell a set amount. When schools didn't, Coke would withhold funding. "Then you have high school principals needing to scramble to sell Coke," she says. Minneapolis could vote August 29.