Off Beat

A Good Bet

ABOUT A YEAR ago, on the advice of a fellow habitué of the betting windows, Off Beat checked out the little corner of the Internet known as The McChump Racing Tour. We've been going back ever since. Lovingly assembled by Chicagoan Terry Bjork (a.k.a. McChump), the site comprises an ongoing journal (five years and counting) of its creator's excursions to thoroughbred racing venues around the world, with special attention--and affection--reserved for low-rent tracks across North America. The cumulative result is a combination quirky guide to small-time horseplayerdom/ode to same. Bjork recently came up with a new wrinkle that caught Off Beat's eye: McChumpalooza, a whirlwind tour of several dozen racetracks that aims to augment the usual McChump agenda (i.e., betting on the horses while assessing the environs, the food, and the beer prices) with a good cause--raising money for the Pegasus Foundation, a California-based nonprofit that finds homes, and often new careers, for abused and neglected thoroughbreds. The plan is to select one race per day on which to place a bet whose payoff would benefit the charity, and also to comp any McChump fan who drops by a five-dollar bet that would do the same. We were slightly crestfallen to see Canterbury Park listed as a "maybe" on the McChumpalooza itinerary, but we put in an optimistic call to Bjork, who tells Off Beat that all that stands between him and a visit to our fair Cities this Sunday to partake of the Canterbury Claiming Crown (for more about the event, see the A List, p. 48) is a last-minute bargain cyberfare. "Canterbury is one of my favorite tracks," says Bjork. "It's real friendly. It's well-laid-out, it's pretty much got everything for everybody, so I enjoy it. I like the little Leinenkugel's tent. And they do have a good beer selection. I find that to be important--I hate those tracks you go to and all they have is Budweiser. They also have a real good food selection. Plus, every time I come there I win a lot of money." If you want to hook up with McChump at the track and help out the Pegasus Foundation, direct your browser to the McChumpalooza Web site

If the Shubert Doesn't Fit...

ONCE AGAIN THE Shubert Theater is a topic of conversation at Minneapolis City Hall. Council member Jim Niland, who chairs the council's Community Development Committee, tells Off Beat that honchos from the nonprofit Artspace Projects Inc. may be given more time to raise money to refurbish the dilapidated theater, which now sits forlornly on Hennepin Avenue, having been moved there late last year from its birthplace on Block E at a cost to taxpayers of $5 million. (See Peter Ritter's February 23 cover story "Theater of the Absurd.") Not everything has gone according to plan in Artspace's efforts to raise $22.5 million to rehab the 90-year-old venue; the group sought $8 million for the project from the Minnesota Legislature this past spring but failed to squeeze a nickel out of the state. According to Niland, the Minneapolis Community Development Agency is considering whether to push back the deadline on Artspace's option to buy the land the theater now occupies. A two-year extension would give Artspace until October 31, 2003 to come up with that cash--and another go-round at the state's biennial bonding session. "From what I've heard, apart from the legislative effort, they've been doing well," Niland says. "I think it's reasonable to give them one more shot at the Legislature." Of course, politically speaking, the idea of giving Artspace more time is a lot easier to sell to local taxpayers than the alternatives: demolishing the theater or putting up more public money. Council member Lisa McDonald, though, isn't at all sure the project will have better luck at the capitol the second time around: "Competing against the Guthrie in that bonding session, I don't see how they're going to do well." Off Beat was unable to reach Artspace for comment.