Springtime in Kato, Part One: Sparklepanels and Sports Complexes


Things have been relatively quiet at RJKT HQ over the past two weeks, and for good reason. Well…sort of.

In the wake of post-PHE burnout, free hours have been filled with House of Cards’ third season (which seemingly only exists to show that President Frank Underwood isn’t nearly as compelling as Majority Whip Frank Underwood), catching up on neglected household duties, and riding my damn bike all the damn time because IT’S SIXTY DEGREES AND ALL THE SNOW IS GONE WHOOOOooooooooooooooo……….


Yet, things have been happening outside of this procrastinatory bubble, and there are half-baked opinions to be lobbed. Rather than inflate a handful of old-ish news bits and random musings into standalone takes, we’re going to compile some bite-sized bullshittery in the interest of getting this damn operation up to speed.

Part One of Springtime in Kato will consist of shenanigans that have spurred a certain degree of crabassery, while Part Two will be decidedly more jovial.

Ready? (I am. It’s 30 degrees again.) Let’s roll.

As reported by the Mankato Free Press, the crown jewel of the downtown ENTERTAINMENT DISTRICT is getting something of an aesthetic “boost.” The $32 million dollar addition to the civic center is slated to be adorned with…get this…sparkle panels.



Key City has a detailed, must-read breakdown as to why this (and possibly the entire convention center concept itself) is a horrific idea, while Nathaniel Hood was decidedly more concise. Practicality and tradition aside, allow me to be frank: This is unbearably tacky.

There’s precedent for this type of thing in just about every aspect of pop culture, but for purposes of this blog, let’s get really lame with our references.

Remember about five years ago, when every homeowner on the planet was addicted to HGTV houseporn and started “updating” their kitchens to keep up with television trends of the moment? (People could still be doing this, but I’ve been out of the loop. I quit the building materials racket long ago, and currently rent an apartment–above a bar–that was erected entirely from wood paneling and Formica.)

Anyway, every boring, cracker-ass couple that was clamoring to drop an extra few thousand into their bullshit mortgage was head-over-heels into backsplash tile, adorning their precious 18 inches of undercabinet space with glass mosaics that were destined to look dated in less than a decade.

People kept doing this, until Vern Yip finally lost his shit and said, “…you know what? This is a trend. And it’s not going to hold up.” Sure enough, in 2015, that expensive glass tile that initially cost upwards of $15 per square foot has all the financial and aesthetic value of your Bobby Bonilla rookie card.

Vern Yip, losing his shit

Vern Yip, losing his shit

Citizens, listen up: This sparkle panel thing is a trend. And it’s not going to hold up. It’s up to you to be your city’s collective Vern Yip. Get loud and tell your lazily-elected officials that you don’t want your new fifty-foot monstrosity in the heart of downtown to boast all the class and grace of a strip club bathroom.

In other news presented by the Free Press sans counterpoint, a proposed athletic complex for high school sports–largely funded through sales taxes, of course–is being hailed by proponents as a tool to generate tournament revenue. As in, “if you build it, they will come.”

In this case, the part of “they” is played by the out-of-town folks that will line up by the dozens to shovel red meat and olive-laden Coors Light taps into the gaping voids between their baseball caps and camouflage Under Armour hoodies.

(See, it’s all about generating revenue for the ENTERTAINMENT DISTRICT.)

Now, I’m not one to side with the *grumblegrumblemytaxdollarsobama* austerity crowd, but they aren’t going to show up for this battle because sports. So allow me to fire freely. This is basically a proposal to tax the whole of Greater Mankato for the benefit of a select few: those invested in amateur sporting activities. Traditionally, this has consisted of the participants and their immediate relatives.

Boosters are trying to sell this complex to the public by, paradoxically, emphasizing its appeal to people that don’t actually live here.

Essentially, proponents want every single consumer in Mankato to fund their elite, exclusive activities, because 1) it’ll “increase economic impact”, a buzzphrase typically used under the guise of corporate welfare, and 2) Rochester has this stuff, and they’re sexier than we are, at least according to lawyers:

A facility also would help area companies attract and keep talented employees, said Julia Corbett, a managing partner at Blethen, Gage and Krause. Rochester’s facilities are massive, beautiful and modern, she said, and ‘put to shame anything we have here.’

Nevermind that Rochester is home to the Mayo Clinic and boasts nearly TRIPLE the population of Mankato; those economically-crucial bits of common knowledge would clunkify a juicy, jealousy-baiting soundbite.

These seemingly innocuous propaganda blasts are the seeds that make wasteful, exclusionary projects become a reality. Soon enough, this thing will get muscled into approval via a sparsely-voted-upon referendum, and we’ll continue down our downward spiral of dumping tax revenue into projects don’t benefit a broad swath of our own citizens.

Instead of taking progressive steps to make this town appealing to the MSU seniors that are ready to bolt for MSP the day after graduation, we’ll cater to short-sighted whims of the aging middle class, and commerce will, once again, usurp culture, and Mankato will perpetuate its propensity for blandness.

There’s a life lesson buried in here somewhere. Those that encourage participation in team sports often cite them for instilling crucial life skills, such as leadership, teamwork, and tenacity. In this case, the only takeaway is that sports participants are entitled to all the shiny new toys that other people can buy for them…so long as they smile, sell hard, and keep winning.

Meanwhile? The majority loses.

Part Two goes live when we sober up. Take care, humans.