Mayo Square attracts praise — and scrutiny

The Timberwolves and Lynx Courts at Mayo Clinic Square - home of the teams' training center, business operations, Mayo Clinic Sports Medicine Center and the Timberwolves and Lynx Basketball Academy - is pictured Wednesday, June 17, 2015 in downtown Minneapolis.

Last week I went to the grand opening of the Timberwolves and Lynx Courts at Mayo Clinic Square in Minneapolis. The Clinic partnered last year with the pro teams and an athletic performance franchise called Exos. The result was a complete do-over of the top two floors of a downtown building with a long history of false starts, on a long-suffering block once known as "Block E."

Today, the block sits at the gateway to the city's bustling Warehouse District. The district started out hosting edgy restaurants, later became too hot for its own good, and is now transitioning into the Times Square of Minneapolis. It is the place where corporate brands compete for neon airspace in a historic quarter maturing into a home for big-budget entertainment and professional sports.

So Mayo landed in the Twin Cities in a big way, and it's hard to overstate that. They joined their name with a beloved pair of franchises and helped turn around the single most cursed property in all of town.

With each new step upward in visibility, the Clinic will come under a sharper level of scrutiny, of course. Some of that scrutiny made an appearance last week in the form of a lengthy critique posted on the influential Health News blog.

The website is maintained by an astute critic of health journalism, Gary Schwitzer, and the post was a written by Trudy Lieberman, a veteran health journalist with a stellar resume.


Full disclosure, I know Gary and have talked with him at times about one day contributing unpaid work to his site. That's because some of us who write about health have become troubled over the last decade by the increasingly interconnected worlds of health reporting and health care product promotion. As health care becomes more of a business, it requires health reporters to work harder at separating science from marketing. It's really, really hard sometimes. The site does a great job explaining the difference.

This one wasn't that hard. As Lieberman pointed out, KARE-TV, a Minneapolis TV station, seems to have made some sort of a promotional deal with Mayo to plug the new Mayo Clinic Sports Medicine Center at Mayo Square with regular mentions at the top of its sports segment.

"The story every night from the Mayo Clinic's Sports Medicine Sports Desk," as Lieberman quotes a KARE 11 sports anchor. "Mayo Clinic Sports Medicine. Downtown Minneapolis. Schedule an appointment today."

Lieberman is rightly troubled that a TV news station seems to have merged reporting with advertising in this instance. She also complains in the piece about trying in vain to get a comment out of KARE or Mayo about the deal. This is also a reasonable gripe. The two businesses ought to just say that they have a promotional deal or they don't, because it sure seems that way to the rest of us.

That being said, it's hard to fault Mayo for wanting to get the word out about its new Sports Medicine Center. Lieberman also raises a valid concern that I have written about before as well, that as medical care consolidates into fewer mega-brands carving up larger markets, competition could suffer and patients could lose out.

But I've written about enough misguided approaches to exercise over the years to find heartening the idea of Mayo Sports Medicine Center offering another option to develop participatory athletic skills in the Twin Cities. Health clubs are littered with bad ideas about the body, training and the very point of exercise. Under Dr. Ed Laskowski, co-director of Mayo Sports Medicine Center is talking about the right things at this time — helping kids and people of all ages move smarter and with more resilience.

They're not talking about the latest protein shake, or ab machine, or branded Mayo 90-day workout DVD, or how to isolate your glutes for the burn. They're talking about teaching kids to and their parents to avoid early sports specialization, overuse injuries, and about the basic movement skills needing remediation to make us more functional in the field.

Not every scan of an ache is necessary, but they are helping fill a void created by the erosion of physical education in schools and free play at home.


That's a win.

One of two practice courts is pictured at the new Timberwolves and Lynx Courts at Mayo Clinic Square - home of the teams' training center, business operations, Mayo Clinic Sports Medicine Center and the Timberwolves and Lynx Basketball Academy - Wednesday, June 17, 2015 in downtown Minneapolis.

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