STEVE SCOTT Pioneer Press
June 17, 2005

A major heart-device manufacturer will pledge $1 million to repair the John Rose Minnesota Oval in Roseville and establish an endowment for upkeep of the internationally known speed-skating track.

The donation by the charitable foundation of the Guidant Corp. is believed to be the largest single gift ever made to the city of Roseville.Guidant's name may be added to the facility, which also is used for bandy and hockey.

The Oval, regarded as the largest sheet of refrigerated ice in the Western Hemisphere, couldn't fully operate last winter because of a leaking chiller system. The most-recent repair estimates have ranged from $300,000 to $500,000.

The gift is among the largest made to a local group by the Guidant Foundation, the nonprofit charitable arm of Indianapolis-based Guidant Corp.

Guidant is one of the nation's largest manufacturers of medical devices and makes heart defibrillators and pacemakers in its Arden Hills division.

Although Guidant officials would not confirm a direct connection, the foundation in March withdrew a $1 million gift to build a band shell in Shoreview. Some nearby residents opposed plans for a 1,000-seat, bowl-shaped arena, and Guidant shied away from the gift after months of controversy.

Roseville parks and recreation director Lonnie Brokke said Oval discussions with Guidant began after that.

"It's one of those things that was meant to be," Brokke said. "Initially, there were some employees at Guidant and some users of the Oval who connected."

A proposal was submitted on behalf of the Oval, which Guidant accepted.

"We're thrilled and thankful," Brokke said. "It will be great to get people back out skating."

The Guidant Foundation concentrates its charitable giving near its operations throughout the world, spokesman David Knutson said.

"This particular case is very top tier," Knutson said. "It was just a very unique opportunity for the Guidant Foundation to donate this amount of money at this particular time. This kind of fell right in their lap."

Guidant will formally announce the gift Monday at a news conference.

"The Oval is a great resource for athletes and children," foundation board member Fred McCoy said in a statement. "Our 3,000 Minnesota-based employee-owners, many of whom live and work in the area, will take great pride in knowing that the Guidant Foundation was instrumental in enhancing this unique facility."

Guidant will initially give $500,000 to the Friends of the Oval Foundation for immediate repairs. It intends to offer the second $500,000 as a "challenge grant" to the Oval Foundation.

"It's not necessarily a dollar-for-dollar match, but we're asking them to do some fund-raising so we can see some evidence of support among user groups and citizens," Guidant spokeswoman Julie Lindmark said.

The Roseville City Council is scheduled Monday night to vote on bids for the Oval's chiller-system repairs. It also will formally receive a report from an 18-person task force that has been studying the Oval's long-term future.

Steve Scott may be reached at or 651-228-5526.

2005 St. Paul Pioneer Press and wire service sources. All Rights Reserved.