Ideas for RTC have some meritPublished 6:09am Monday, October 14, 2013
While perusing the vendors at the Brewer’s Festival Friday evening at the jam-packed VFW, I heard a few conversations about how — no offense to the VFW — the festival might need a new venue.
One prominent attendee suggested the Regional Treatment Center.
In fact, the idea went even further. Why not create a brewery in the RTC, along with a home-brewing “training camp” that provided equipment, supplies and training?
There could be a bar and restaurant where various home brews could be sampled.
We could even create a home brewing school vacation package, where home brewing enthusiasts could spend a week or two on the RTC campus “resort,” learning the craft of home brewing, similar to Italian cooking schools.
On the land where RTC clients used to operate a farm, we could grow hops and barley. Vacationers would leave after a week armed with a few kegs of their own beer (or at least beer that would be started correctly) and a pile of knowledge about brewing beer.
Along with the school, the RTC could create its own microbrewery. Names of beers could be a tasteful reflection of the former facility’s purpose.
If we play the cards right — the RTC home brewing school could attract some of those thick glasses, big-bearded hipsters who would bring their friends and create their own hip community here — Greenwich Village on the prairie, if you will.
This is not a tongue-and-cheek idea.
OK, there’s some irony in the fact that the place where people were treated for chemical dependency would become a home brewing school.
But if you think about it, from what I can tell, there are no home brewing schools in existence.
A quick Internet search showed that there’s a bar in Chicago which does a brew camp.
However, the camp only offers a few classes, not a weeklong brewing boot camp like I’m suggesting here.
If you want a close example, there’s the Fitger’s brewery in Duluth, which, like the RTC, is an old building that was restored and has a series of bars, restaurants and shopping — along with a microbrewery and home brewing store.
Besides, at this point, we are at a point where wild ideas are required to save the Kirkbride building.
It would be nice if the land around the Kirkbride was a bit more exotic. Fitger’s is along the shores of Lake Superior. Those Italian cooking schools are in, well, Italy.
Maybe I’m underestimating the draw of Fergus Falls, but I’m fairly certain the RTC needs to be its own destination for it to be successful.
I also get that there would be a whole lot of home brewers needed if we’re going to fill up that 500,000-square-foot facility.
All that said, creating a home brewing school at the RTC, if it’s truly the last idea before the facility faces the wrecking ball, is certainly worth a try.
I have changed my mind when it comes to the RTC. I previously believed that the city needed to be careful not to lose the $5 million in state demolition funds. They still do.
But I also think the Legislature — who ditched the RTC in favor of a bunch of small buildings hidden throughout west central Minnesota — owes it to Fergus Falls to hold our demolition funds until all options to save the building have been exhausted, no matter how long it takes.
As one city council member pointed out to me this week, there really isn’t much benefit to demolishing the RTC. Fergus Falls has plenty of vacant buildings, and plenty of land to build new houses and commercial buildings.
There’s no guarantee that anything will get built in the place where the RTC now stands.
The odds are also high that no one will ever build a building as unique as the Kirkbride ever again in Fergus Falls, or anywhere in the world, for that matter.
Home brew school in Fergus Falls? Better than the wrecking ball, I say.
Joel Myhre is The Journal’s publisher. Email him at email@example.com