Grain Belt Beer Sign Could Light Up Once Again
The Grain Belt Beer sign on Nicollet Island may light up again as the beer’s brewer, New Ulm-based August Schell Brewing Company, said Wednesday that it has an agreement to purchase the landmark.
Part of the purchase includes discussing plans to preserve and re-light the sign, which hugs the Hennepin Bridge along the Mississippi River. The brewery would work with the Preservation Alliance of Minnesota.
“As the stewards to a 154-year old brewery and family business, we understand the importance of preserving heritage. We are honored to have this opportunity to protect and restore such a beloved part of the Minneapolis landscape,” Schell’s President Ted Marti said in a statement. “Working in concert with the community, our goal is to preserve and relight this important remnant of the city’s industrial and commercial past.”
Schell’s said that if discussions with the Preservation Alliance leads the company to believe that the sign can be relit, the purchase of the land and sign is expected to close “later this year.” Financial terms of the agreement were not disclosed. The brewery said it would release more information about the sign’s preservation and possible relighting after the sale closes.
In May, the Downtown Journal reported initial plans by Schell’s and the Preservation Alliance to purchase and restore the sign. Representatives met with the Nicollet Island Neighborhood Association to gauge attitudes toward relighting the sign and said neighbors agreed that they would like to see the sign relit. Residents, however, opposed using association funds to pay for it and also opposed any advertising placed on the back of the sign to help pay for maintenance.
Early estimates projected that it would cost about $250,000 to restore the sign and about $500 a month for property taxes and basic maintenance, according to the Journal.
The sign contains more than 800 feet of neon tubing and 1,100 incandescent lamps and has been dark for nearly 20 years, according to Growler Magazine. It was relocated to Nicollet Island in 1950 after spending its first nine years atop the now-demolished Marigold Ballroom at 1330 Nicollet Avenue. MPR reported that the heirs of the William Eastman family, which owns the site, began seeking buyers in 2009. In recent years, the sign’s owners have been at odds with Minneapolis officials who ordered them to remove graffiti on the backside of the sign, according to a 2011 Star Tribune report.
Schell’s purchased Grain Belt in 2002 and the brand’s three American lagers account for roughly 70 percent of the beer that Schell’s produces in New Ulm.