AS YET ANOTHER Block E deadline looms for developers, Off Beat hears that the lead entertainment tenant for the star-crossed downtown Minneapolis site will be...an ESPN Zone sports bar! Council member Lisa McDonald says (and another city hall source confirms) that the developers have told her that the theme park for the jock set is in. "I can understand that the demographics support it," McDonald opines. "But it's hard for me to get excited about it. What's in that for someone who's not a sports person?" What, indeed? The colossal complexes, examples of which are already ensconced in New York, Chicago, and Baltimore, feature a sports-themed bar and grill, as well as bazillions of interactive games, and TV sets everywhere. Developer Harold Brandt, one of the principals in Minneapolis Square LLC, did not return phone calls; an ESPN Zone flack did but wasn't much more forthcoming. The city council has given Brandt's group several extensions to put together a deal over the past two years, then stood by. Lisa Goodman, McDonald's colleague on the dais, says developers swore her to secrecy about prospective tenants, but come the January 24 hearing on the matter before the Community Development Committee, she'll admonish them to name names. "If they want to play the secrecy game, they're going to have to do it in public," says Goodman, a steadfast critic of the $101 million project, which as originally proposed called for $38.1 million in public money. (She'd prefer a park.) McDonald, meanwhile, says there has been some behind-the-scenes wrangling about financing details. "They want us to basically put in the parking and give them the revenue in perpetuity," she fumes. "We'd have to be nuts to do something like that!"
Wings 'n' Things
OFF BEAT'S E-MAIL fairly crackled last week with word that a University of New Hampshire study has revealed that KFC serves "genetically manipulated organisms...so-called chickens [that] are kept alive by tubes inserted into their bodies to pump blood and nutrients through their structure. They have no beaks, no feathers, and no feet." (The fast-food chain allegedly stopped calling itself Kentucky Fried Chicken because the creatures can't fairly be called chickens.) The university has posted a "chicken hoax info" link on its home page (www.unh.edu), and claims that "there is no such research or study that was done here." The school pointed browsers to www.urbanlegends.com, which asserts that the tale is based on a 1992 rumor that Kentucky Fried chickens are genetically altered to grow extra legs. Still, Off Beat was skeptical. KFC's site (www.kfc.com) is mute on the point (one page, in fact, contains the lame explanation that the company's name was changed in the early Nineties when the menu was expanded to include nonfried chicken). So we called some local KFCs to find out if they're serving proper poultry-as-we-know-it. A staffer at the Rice Street outlet in St. Paul said, "I'll have to let you speak to a manager on that. I really wouldn't know," and our eyebrows went up another notch when Blaine put us on hold as well. Thankfully, a chipper cook at Lyndale Avenue KFC in Bloomington came to the rescue, when he stopped laughing long enough to assure us, "Oh no--we got chicken!"
God and Food
WHEN OFF BEAT heard Sarah Ferguson was coming to town, we passed. Old chapeau, we figured. The book-signing appearance of Christian weight-loss guru Gwen Shamblin, however, was another matter entirely. Not that Christ-centered weight-loss programs are anything new--the 3D program (Diet, Discipline, and Discipleship) was founded by a Presbyterian minister in 1972, and many others have since taken hold, with great monikers but varying success: More of Jesus, Less of Me; Help Lord, the Devil Wants Me Fat; the Hallelujah Diet; and (Off Beat's personal favorite) the exercise-oriented Jehobics. The petite Shamblin, whose new book is rumored to have netted her a seven-figure advance, claims that 30,000 members have enrolled in her Weigh Down Workshops--12-week sessions of prayer, confession, tears, and inspirational videotapes that are short on nutritional mumbo-jumbo and long on faith. To the 75 faithful who braved last Wednesday's snowstorm to see her at the Barnes & Noble in Roseville, the former cheerleader had this to impart in her Southern twang: "You've gotta stop dieting. Any kind of dieting is going to make you more focused on food. What you have to do is replace your lust for food with a lust for God." Flashing a well-practiced smile, Shamblin closed with an "I love you guys--I wanna hug you and I wanna sign your books," then hustled off to her next stop--leaving Off Beat with a strangely empty feeling.
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