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With Part Wolf/Nomad Gone, Minneapolis Bocce Culture Takes a Major Hit

"We’re going to have this community. It’s just a matter of where it lands."

Part Wolf MPLS via Facebook

The storied West Bank music scene will suffer when Part Wolf closes at the end of the month, as we reported last week

Soccer fans also adored the former Nomad World Pub, and they’ll now have to watch “matches”—games, to American readers—at “football bars”—soccer bars, to American readers—like Brit’s Pub in downtown Minneapolis or Black Hart in St. Paul.

As for bocce-heads? The deep community that grew around Part Wolf’s outdoor bocce ball leagues is in the wilderness. 

Coz Lindsay first rolled at the Nomad following a Twins game in 2014. He met the bar staff, hung out with league players, and became acquainted with the team names: Joni Loves Bocce, Chewbocce, etc. He’d spend almost every warm-weather Thursday for the next seven years playing bocce on the West Bank.

“It was a community,” Lindsay says. “Some people might even equate it to a faith community—it was weekly, it was live music, it was structured, and it was all-accepting. We made great friends.”

On Thursday nights alone, 50 to 60 players would convene to knock balls, sip craft beer, listen to live music, and enjoy bonfires. The group even gathered for annual bocce/camping retreats at Carver Lake Park in Woodbury. “More than a few” couples formed around that shared love of bocce, Lindsay reports. 

A pharmacy is rumored for the ol’ Part Wolf/Nomad space, and Lindsay acknowledges that’ll be good for the neighborhood. Still, he asks with a chuckle: “Jay, my question is, what do we do with our Thursday nights?”

“It leaves us questioning: Where do we go?” Lindsay continues. “I’m not sure that there’s another obvious next place to play. We’re texting, messaging, trying to figure this out. We’re going to have this community. It’s just a matter of where it lands.”

Twin Cities barroom bocce options still exist in few notable places, including the aforementioned Brit’s Pub, St. Paul’s Half-Time Rec, and Edina’s Pinstripes. In the ’80s, the Italian American Association formed a summertime bocce league that still gathers at Beltrami Park in Northeast. Keep an eye on the West Bank Bocce website for updates.

Bocce history runs deep in Minnesota… at least during Gov. Rudy Perpich’s nonconsecutive administrations. In 1977, the DFL governor gathered reporters to spread the sport’s gospel, the Star Tribune reported at the time. Perpich hoped to construct courts around the state and even provide free balls. Writes the Star Tribune: “Perpich said that bocce ball has gained considerable popularity over the years among non-Italians on the Iron Range, where the governor resides, and that it has ‘always been my family’s favorite sport.'”

The bocce-crazed guv—who reportedly donated a $25,000 pay raise to help promote the sport—demanded courts in every community across the state by late 1978. Perpich was ousted from the Governor’s Mansion in 1979 after creating bocce courts in 135+ communities, the Strib reports; that same year a Duluth TV exec who’d been privately funding the bocce program yanked his money from it. Perpich would reclaimed the governorship in 1983, and within months he was trying to lure a national bocce tournament to the state. Fast-forward to 2012, and yours truly would edit this Vita.mn mini-profile of bocce ball at the now-closed Nomad.

Perpich weeps.