‘Outdoor Recreation Hub’ Coming to Urban Park in Mpls

Outdoor adventure in the heart of the city… that premise bolsters a new project in Minneapolis that’s years in the making.

theo wirth trailhead outdoor recreation center

You can mountain bike from the front steps. In winter, groomed ski trails stream in all directions across open land and into the woods.

The ‘Trailhead’ is a to-be-built facility that will provide a 14,000-square-foot jumping-off point for outdoor activities in Minneapolis’ largest park.

It will serve as a new kind of community center that blends interpretive functions with a rental shop for access to gear, a cafe, and a community setting focused around recreation in the (urban) outdoors.

All this is adjacent to some of Minneapolis’ poorest neighborhoods and a quick bike ride from the busy grid of downtown.

Theo Wirth: Outdoors Adventure In The City

Theodore Wirth Park has grown up. Initially launched as a 66-acre golf course, “Theo Wirth” now spans 759 acres. It has ski paths, mountain bike and running trails, bomber sledding hills, and an 18-hole golf course.

In May 2018, those activities and more will have a central base of operations. Dubbed the Trailhead, this multipurpose facility will offer a large event area with cafe, ski and bike shops, training facilities, locker rooms, and equipment rental.

theo wirth trailhead outdoor recreation center schematic

The Trailhead at Theodore Wirth Park

Now two years in the making, the Trailhead also signals an expanded partnership between the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board (MPRB) and the nonprofit Loppet Foundation. The Loppet will staff and oversee the Trailhead, build and maintain an additional 4 miles of mountain bike trails, and manage the park’s expanded snowmaking capabilities.

The MPRB, meanwhile, will oversee golf operations, general maintenance, and programming. As part of the agreement, The Loppet Foundation will also maintain all cross-country ski maintenance throughout the Minneapolis park system.


“The Trailhead will offer the Minneapolis-area community a space where people from different ethnic and economic backgrounds can come together to enjoy the outdoors, whether they are just starting out or are longtime outdoor enthusiasts,” said Loppet Foundation Executive Director John Munger.

Still, the project drew criticism early on. Some people claim the Loppet Foundation’s control is a privatization of public lands.

theo wirth trailhead outdoor recreation center

“This plan outsources between six and seven thousand hours of labor right now, and it’s going to be turned over to low-wage benefit staff,” Tony Kelly, a member of City Employees Local 363 Union, told WCCO.

As construction nears completion, the Loppet Foundation has promised that no MPRB jobs will be cut. It also said the Trailhead will bring more money into the park, create new jobs, and free up to 10 full-time MPRB staff members to improve winter maintenance across the Minneapolis park system.

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Adam Ruggiero is an all-sport activity junkie – from biking, running, and (not enough) surfing, to ball sports, camping, and cattle farming. If it’s outside, it’s worth doing. Adam graduated from the University of Minnesota with a BA in journalism. Likes: unique beer, dogs, stories. Like nots: neckties, escalators, manicured lawns.

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