Late in 2015, the Saint Paul Parks Conservancy and its partners the Saint Paul Garden Club, Rice Park Association and the City of Saint Paul Parks and Recreation Department launched a fundraising campaign for the revitalization of Rice Park.  The fundraising goal of $1.35 million seemed a bit daunting at the time and now that the goal has been met, the Parks Conservancy has launched into its next fundraising campaign.

Rice Park Revitalization Project: $1.35 million raised from private sources

Rice Park is a beloved public green space at the heart of downtown Saint Paul. Since 1849 it has served as a nexus linking Saint Paul’s most impressive historic buildings and cultural gathering places, providing a visual and physical respite from the busy street life surrounding it.  It is a well-used urban park that serves a broad, diverse audience and is an important component of numerous public events, including the Winter Carnival, Flint Hills Children Festival, the Ordway Summer Dance Festival and many more.

The park needs major updates and improvements beyond the reach of annual maintenance. With construction scheduled for the spring of 2018, the Rice Park Revitalization Project will reinvigorate downtown’s “front yard” by enhancing its inherent beauty to ensure its optimum public use for years to come. Improvements include new irrigation systems, enhanced lighting, a new direct pathway between Ordway Center and The Saint Paul Hotel, colorful new display gardens and flexible seating options. Other project elements include safety bump outs at all street corners, a reconstructed seat wall at the bus stop, re-configured entry spaces, and new plaza seating and tree cover. The project also raised funds for the Park’s ongoing maintenance, crucial to its continuing role as a treasured community landmark and excellent public event space that serves thousands each year.

Over 200 donors contributed to the campaign’s success.  A critical component of the fundraising campaign was the engagement of the leadership team – members of the Conservancy, Saint Paul Garden Club and Rice Park Association – who put in countless hours of volunteer time driving the campaign.

The City of Saint Paul is also contributing $1 million in public funding to complete the revitalization effort.

Next….Sport facilities located in Saint Paul’s East and North Sides:

As part of the Minnesota Super Bowl Host Committee’s “52 Weeks of Giving” campaign, a unique project caught their eye and their checkbook.  The project is aimed at creating Minnesota’s first sepak takraw (kato) courts.  Sepak takraw/kato is a popular sport among Saint Paul’s Hmong population and is a staple event at the annual Hmong Freedom Celebration in Saint Paul.  (Sepak takraw (Thai) or Kato (Laotian) is a traditional sport played in much of Southeast Asia.  It is commonly described as volleyball played with the feet, chest and head.)

A $100,000 donation from the Super Bowl Host Committee jump-started off the campaign to raise enough money to construct a total of five sepak takraw courts and amenities.  Three of the courts will be located on Saint Paul’s East Side adjacent to the Duluth Case Recreation Center.  Two additional courts will be located in Marydale Park on the North Side.  These locations were chosen due to the concentration of Hmong/Southeast Asian in those neighborhoods.  The additional contributions from Ramsey County, the Outdoor Heritage Legacy Fund and the City of Saint Paul still left a shortfall of $100,000 to complete the project.

The Saint Paul Parks Conservancy Board of Directors reviewed the project (along with several other potential projects) and committed to raising the gap in funding.  Partnering with the Conservancy in the fundraising effort is Sepak Takraw of the U.S.A., a non-profit organization whose mission is to promote the sport of sepak takraw/kato in Minnesota and elsewhere within the United States.   The fundraising campaign is expected to be completed in time from the Hmong Freedom Celebration in June, 2018.

Dowell Management fund development services

The Saint Paul Parks Conservancy was founded in 2008 to help Saint Paul Parks and Recreation’s goals of promoting active lifestyles, vibrant places and a vital environment.  The Conservancy secures private financial support for project throughout the Saint Paul Community.  For the past four (?) years, the Saint Paul Parks Conservancy has contracted with Dowell Management for association management services.   With the addition of the Rice Park Revitalization Project, the Conservancy enlisted fund development and campaign management services from Dowell Management.  Dowell will also be managing the fundraising campaign for the sepak takraw courts project.