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Progress: Sportland Corners property in Nisswa to be renovated - Bank, coffee shop to replace Sportland Cafe building

The landmark Sportland Cafe building on Smiley Road in Nisswa, at the intersection of Highway 371 and County Highway 13, should soon be torn down to make way for an American National Bank building. Nancy Vogt / Echo Journal1 / 3
This is a first architectural drawing of the American National Bank building to be built on Smiley Road at Sportland Corners in Nisswa.2 / 3
American National Bank was scheduled to close Sept. 4 on the Sportland Corners property that once housed the Sportland Cafe and ICO convenience store. Nancy Vogt / Echo Journal3 / 3

NISSWA—Lots of Nisswa area residents and repeat visitors likely have fond memories of going out for a hot, home-cooked breakfast after church on Sunday or gathering for early morning coffee and conversation at the Sportland Cafe.

The restaurant at one time had a loyal following at its location on Smiley Road, on the northeast corner of the intersection of Highway 371 and County Highway 13 south of downtown Nisswa.

You might better know that landmark intersection as Sportland Corners.

Today, Dave's Sportland Rental is the only business in that area to retain "Sportland" in its name, but the prominent intersection that has Schaefer's Foods, Holiday gas station and Wendy's as its anchors likely will long be known as Sportland Corners, even though the cafe and adjoining convenience store have been closed for at least 10 years. Gas pumps and tanks were taken out long ago. The building, parking lot and property have fallen into disrepair that many have called "an eyesore."

Look for that to change this fall.

American National Bank recently received approval from the city of Nisswa for $570,518 in redevelopment tax-increment financing to build a bank on the property. PJ Smith, of American National Bank, said plans are to close on the sale of the property Tuesday, Sept. 4.

"The very first thing we plan to do is get someone in there to clean up the grounds," Smith said.

The bank has a contract with Hy-Tec Construction of Brainerd to build the facility, and Smith said the goal remains to break ground this fall, around mid-October, build over the winter and occupy the building by next summer.

The deteriorating building that housed the beloved Sportland Cafe will be torn down and a two-level building will go up featuring 5,000 square feet on the lower level and 4,000 square feet on the upper level. When complete, the estimated market value is projected at $1.8 million.

The bank is working on a lease to have Stonehouse Coffee as a tenant along with the bank on the building's lower level. Unlike the open space Stonehouse Coffee shares with RiverWood Bank in Baxter, the coffee shop would have its own, separate space in the American National Bank building.

The bank building's second level will house bank offices and some professional space to lease.

Many are excited to see the property be spruced up.

"I think it's great that they're going to clean it up," said Teddy Schaefer, store manager at Schaefer's Foods. "Ultimately, everyone in town wants to see that place freshened up."

Jolie Bray, registered nurse and clinical supervisor with Good Samaritan Home Care and Hospice, just north of the property, said staff is "super excited they are going to build there. We've been waiting. It's about time. It's the perfect corner."

She said the cleaned up property could attract more business and traffic, and the Good Sam staff would appreciate Stonehouse Coffee going into the building.

"Nurses love coffee," she said.