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Bde Maka Ska Pavilion Opens in Minneapolis

Rebuilt from the ground up after a 2019 fire, the Bde Maka Ska Pavilion relaunches on the shores of one of the city’s most-visited lakes

By Todd R. Berger

9.7.23 Bde Maka Ska Pavilion in Minneapolis
Bde Maka Ska Pavilion under construction in early September | Courtesy of Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board

The Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board opened the rebuilt and reimagined Bde Maka Ska Pavilion in Minneapolis in mid-October. This high-profile lakeside attraction has been completely rebuilt and expanded over the last 15 months.

The $6.5 million project features two new buildings totaling 4,400 square feet that  host a restaurant and market from the team behind Pimento Jamaican Kitchen, Indigenous art, and naval artifacts that were previously displayed at the lake. The project also includes improved outdoor seating with 3,000 square feet of open covered space, a small performance stage, upgraded landscaping and trail safety, and a six-stall, year-round restroom area.

“We could not be more excited to open the Bde Maka Ska Pavilion and provide another welcoming, open space in our park system,” says Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board Superintendent Al Bangoura in a prepared statement. “As beloved as the original pavilion was, I believe this new building will quickly become a favorite gathering space and a Minneapolis icon.”

The former Bde Maka Ska Pavilion, also called a “refectory,” was built in 1930 and was operated seasonally until it burned down in 2019.

“We would like to thank the partners who contributed to make this project possible, including Louis King; Tomme Beevas and the Pimento Jamaican Kitchen team; Cunningham; Concrete Pig with Juxtaposition Arts; Hennepin Theatre Trust; Native American Community Development Institute; artist Adrienne Zimiga-January, who created the ‘We Are on Dakota/Native Land’ decals; Morcon Construction; and, of course, the dedicated Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board staff members who spent countless hours making this a reality,” says Meg Forney, Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board president. “It was truly a team effort.”

“I am thrilled the Bde Maka Ska Pavilion and restaurant are back,” adds Elizabeth Shaffer, park board District 4 commissioner. “It’s an important site for the local community and a major regional attraction for our city, as the Chain of Lakes is the second-most visited destination in Minnesota.”

Pimento on the Lake & Pimento Market

Bde Maka Ska Pavilion has two new buildings that will each host distinct experiences from Pimento Jamaican Kitchen.

Pimento on the Lake

Pimento on the Lake is a new lakeside restaurant offering beach-inspired twists on Pimento Jamaican Kitchen’s authentic, award-winning Jamaican cuisine and libations. It will be open seasonally out of the north building at the pavilion site.

“We’re bringing the magic of Jamaica to the shores of Bde Maka Ska,” says Tomme Beevas, chief strategic officer of Pimento Jamaican Kitchen. “This is an amazing opportunity to showcase our authentic, award-winning cuisine and host lively lakeside events at one of the most iconic and picturesque places in Minneapolis.”

Pimento joined forces with the team behind Lola on the Lake, which operated the Bde Maka Ska concessions building before it burned down, to create Pimento on the Lake.

“I’m really excited about being a part this next chapter of concessions at Bde Maka Ska,” says Louis King with Lola on the Lake. “The park board and Pimento have partnered with Lola’s to bring a world-class concept to the lake and region. I applaud the efforts.”

Pimento Market

Pimento Market will offer a curated selection of goods, gifts, and treats from local BIPOC businesses and entrepreneurs. It will be open year-round in the south building at the pavilion site.

“We’re proud to support BIPOC entrepreneurs, celebrate their talents, and offer a platform for their products to shine,” says Beevas. “Our market will be more than just a place to shop; it’s a cultural experience to foster unity and showcase the rich tapestry of talent in Minnesota.”

Pavilion Area Highlights

The entire pavilion area was renovated in addition to the construction of the two new buildings. Highlights:

  • Ample outdoor seating areas, including a new community table designed by a Youth Apprentice with Juxtapostion Arts
  • Small performance stage
  • Improved trail safety and 51 bike parking stalls
  • All-gender indoor restroom area with six stalls, including one fully accessible stall with an baby-changing table
  • Redesigned landscaping with native plants, trees, and flowers
  • Rebuilt boat launch

Public Art and Memorials: Native American Art

A new mural is planned for the pavilion thanks to a partnership with the Native American Community Development Institute (NACDI), and Hennepin Theatre Trust (HTT).

NACDI and HTT have an ongoing collaborative program called We Are Still Here, a multiyear partnership creating large-scale, high-profile public artworks in the Twin Cities. The mural on the Bde Maka Ska Refectory building will serve as the capstone project for the emerging and mentor artists in the current round of the We Are Still Here program, which is funded in partnership with the McKnight Foundation and the Minnesota State Arts Board—Clean Water, Land & Legacy Amendment.

In addition, Dakota language signs are found on steel columns throughout the buildings, including decals designed by artist Adrienne Zimiga-January.

9.7.23 Exhibits at Bde Make Ska Pavilion in Minneapolis
Dakota-language signs and decals were installed on steel beams at the Bde Maka Ska Pavilion this September. | Courtesy of Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board

Bell & Wheel

Two naval artifacts—the wheel from the USS Minneapolis and the bell from the USS Minnesota—have returned to the shores of Bde Maka Ska. The American Legion gifted the bell of the USS Minneapolis to the park board in 1928 and the wheel from the USS Minnesota in 1932. The Navy Memorial at the northeast corner of Bde Maka Ska displayed these naval artifacts for decades, where annual Memorial Day services were also held.

These artifacts were temporarily hosted by Minnetonka Public Schools and MPRB Headquarters before returning at the new pavilion area.