Craig Swalboski Pressbox View: Change, and sports, in Rochester

Living in Rochester, Minn., for 30-some years, I have sometimes almost forgotten that change is happening continuously

Photo wall
Many of the celebrities on the "photo wall" at Michaels Restaurant are famous sports figures.

Living in Rochester for 30-some years, I have sometimes almost forgotten that change is happening continuously.

Now and then some really noticeable change — like the years-long remake of Highway 52 through the city, or Bernie Lusk retiring from broadcasting — reminds me that even here, where change is well below average, it still happens.

That's why last week's news of the closing of two iconic Rochester establishments has this city abuzz.

Even if you don't often eat at Michaels Restaurant or buy clothing at Hanny's, it's still shocking that these two businesses will soon be radically smaller and far less visible. That these two pieces of news came out within a few days of each other doubles the impact.

Sports connection


One thing that struck me was the sports connection Michaels and Hanny's have.

In Michaels hallway, numerous photos of celebrities who have dined there are top-heavy with sports stars, including Arnold Palmer and Rocky Marciano.

It has for decades been the site every Monday at noon for the weekly meetings of the Rochester Quarterbacks Club. The club sometimes brings in speakers of note, and in 1991 started up its Hall of Fame, which has 93 inductees. The annual banquet in April is largely a gathering of "who's who" in the Rochester sports community.

And longtime Michaels front man Chuck Pappas was seemingly always present — standing in a corner, not seated in the bleachers — at any local basketball game of note.

Hanny's co-owner Marv Hanenberger was a volunteer tennis coach to the Rochester community for 30 years, mentoring dozens if not hundreds of young players, including six state high school champions. He lived the last 26 of his 96 years in Arizona (helping coach high school tennis for a time there) but is still remembered fondly in his native city.

Oh, and he was inducted into the Quarterbacks Club Hall of Fame in its second year of existence in 1992.

Sports an oasis?

As I ponder the topic of change in Rochester, I realize that sports have been even more stable than most spheres of activity in Rochester.


We still have two coaches — Lorne Grosso (boys hockey) and Neil McCormack (boys golf) — in the same posts at Mayo High School that they took on when the doors opened in 1966, 48 years ago.

Speaking of high schools, despite the growth of the city — from about 40,000 in 1960 to an estimated 110,000 in 2013 — only one public high school has been added since Mayo in 1966.

Century's arrival in 1997 changed the dynamics of a robust John Marshall-Mayo rivalry that was a staple of the city's athletic scene for more than 30 years.

Lourdes joined the Minnesota State High School League in 1976 and started winning state championships soon after. It now has 43, eighth-most among Minnesota schools.

There have been occasional program drops — remember Lourdes wrestling, or RCTC men's hockey? — but in general, the trend has been occasional and modest additions to the Rochester sports menu since the girls were allowed into the game in the 1970s.

Lacrosse is the latest varsity offering at JM, Mayo and Century.

There was a small flurry of professional basketball and (one) baseball teams in the 1980s and '90s. The Mustangs were a successful staple from 1985-2002 until changes in the United States Hockey League forced them to move.

We now have the hockey Ice Hawks (13 years) and baseball Honkers (21 years) as post-high school spectator options.



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