Excelsior Commons has long been the epicenter of lakeside events, including community festivals, more concerts than one can count and other special celebrations. If you’ve been to the area lately, you’ve undoubtedly noticed something new. The concrete bandshell, which was formally opened to the public in 1976, has been replaced with a new open-air pavilion.
The pavilion features a curved roof, held up by steel poles, which still allow for scenic views of Lake Minnetonka, the park and the lakeside edge of Excelsior. This design also supports a wider range of activities, such as detachable screens for movie nights at the park.
City Council member Jennifer Caron says one of the main goals in updating to a new open-air structure was to introduce a more versatile space and community uses. “The old bandshell was rather limited in use,” Caron says. “It was enclosed in the back, and we wanted something that could be functional on a day-to-day basis.”
The new pavilion is just the first step in the city’s Commons Master Plan, a detailed outline that was developed in conjunction with Community for the Commons, a non-profit park conservancy founded and led by Lake Minnetonka residents.
“We developed that master plan with a lot of community input,” Caron says. Planning took a couple of years, and, as a focal point of the Commons, the former bandshell was a natural candidate for the first round of improvements. After the new design was approved in December 2020, the $1.2 million project broke ground in February 2021. “Part of that million is a significant upgrade to electrical [elements],” Caron says. “The infrastructure we have in the Commons across the board is pretty outdated, so each of these projects has rather significant infrastructure costs.”
The project is being funded by donations made to Community for the Commons, as well as Excelsior’s 0.5 percent sales tax—which is dedicated to supporting the Commons Master Plan—and the city’s park improvement fund, which is mainly comprised of collected park dedication fees.
Caron says that she believes Excelsior’s City Council and Park Conservancy worked to create a structure that will become just as iconic as the previous bandshell. “I think we accomplished that with the design,” she says.
So, what’s next for a Commons Master Plan makeover? “The next project we’re looking at is the concession building,” Caron says. This plan will follow a similar timeline as the pavilion, with design approval by the end of the year, followed by the bid process in early 2022. If all goes as planned, construction should commence in the spring 2022.
A ribbon cutting ceremony for the pavilion and a free concert are set for 5:30 p.m. July 8 in Excelsior Commons Park. Entertainment includes The Uptown Brass, The Megan Tam String Quartet and The Charles Lazarus Band. “The [event] will be a recognition of Excelsior’s 168-year history and a celebration of the renewed commitment to the conservation, preservation and restoration of our Excelsior Commons,” says Jennifer Caron, co-chairman of the Fanfare for the Commons Committee and Excelsior City Council member. For detailed information, visit fanfareforthecommons.org.