You can’t judge a book by its cover—or a business by its name. At first glance, Batting Cages of Minnesota (BCM) and the Help Boardshop and Indoor Skatepark might appear to be venues solely for baseball players in search of extra reps or skateboarders looking for an indoor ramp. Take a closer look.
Batting Cages of Minnesota
“We’re the country club of batting cages,” Jennifer James, general manager, says of Batting Cages of Minnesota. The 35,000-square-foot facility features two Iron Mike Token pitching machines, two Pro-Batter pitching simulators, five 90-foot batting tunnels and two pitching tunnels.
The 8,000-square-foot turfed flex room can be configured with nets or used for huge kickball games, lined with pitching mounds or set up for most any other recreational endeavor. The upper level features a full strength and conditioning area. The pro shop carries high-end baseball and softball equipment. A glove steamer is also available to help get new gloves in shape for game day.
“We offer a unique experience,” James says, noting that baseball and softball teams aren’t the only athletic groups that use the facility. Basketball, cricket, dodgeball and hockey teams come in for training or even group celebrations. Speaking of which, engaged couples might want to take a gander at the venue’s hardwood-floored banquet facility, which includes a separate entrance. Tables and chairs are provided, and the space can accommodate about 160 guests. The flex room can also host special events.
BCM can accommodate almost any group or party (two-hour birthday party packages are available). Businesses have rented out space and expressed interest in including the athletic areas in future events. There’s nothing like seeing the boss kick off her heels or your supervisor loosen his tie for a team-building game of dodgeball or take hits in the batting cage.
“It’s not your run-of-the-mill batting cages,” James says. “You almost have to see it to believe it.”
Fees vary. Hours are 3:30-9 p.m. Mondays-Thursdays, 3:30-8 p.m. Fridays, and 9 a.m.-9p.m. Saturdays and Sundays. 7104 Ohms Lane; 952.426.0980; battingcagesofmn.com
“It’s definitely inviting to any skill level,” Josh Franco, manager, says of Help Boardshop and Indoor Skatepark. There are plenty of obstacles to satisfy the novice through expert skater. While free skate time is popular with many customers, other clients come in for lessons, space rental or birthday parties. Parties include two-hour use of a party room, pizza, pop, all-day skate park admission and more for $125. The on-site store features skate and snowboard equipment and some apparel.
The venue is a nonprofit organization affiliated with JSAW (Jesus, Snow, Asphalt and Water), a ministry with a mission to transform the action sports culture, which can be a little rough around the edges. Franco says Help Boardshop offers a safe environment for kids and teens. “We are intentional with our time with the customers,” he says, adding that employees take time to chat with each customer and skate with them if they are interested.
Open since 2013, the venue hosts monthly events, including contests and premieres of skate and snowboard videos. The extreme popularity of the events and the facility is encouraging the management to expand.
Rob Dyrdek, professional skateboarder and television personality, has helped increase the sport’s popularity, according to Franco. “He finally made an event on ESPN that was 100 percent skateboarding.” Franco’s commitment to the business is twofold: He loves the sport and the athletes. “It’s you doing you,” he says of skateboarding. “I have a huge heart for kids who are in this sport.”
Skate all day for $5. Hours are 3-9 p.m. Mondays-Fridays, noon-9 p.m. Saturdays and closed Sundays. 7385 Bush Lake Road; 952.217.4228; jsaw.org/helpboardshop