My thoughts on Pixels in the Plaza

It was the greatest thing Mankato has ever experienced…. end.

No? You want more than that? Ok, fine.

In case I need to bring you up to speed, last Friday we (Ben Lundsten and I, with help from friends-you know who you are) set up some screens in the Cherry St. plaza and played video games. If you want to know more about what happened, you can check it out here.

I would call it a success. I think that we got the idea across as we wanted to, it was a quick, engaging activation of a public space.

At first people stopped and looked and then people realized “hey, that’s Mario Kart…can I play?”

There were a couple of kids who came out from Blue Bricks and played along with their Mom and Grandma, which I thought was great. Never to old to learn Mario Kart, amiright?

As the night went on we hit our stride and got a decent amount of people. It was cold, so that didn’t help anything, but people down at the bars came out and played.

The highlight of the night was Public Safety’s response:

They were both pretty good at Goldeneye, no joke.

It wasn’t too rowdy or competitive and we wrapped up at midnight, the perfect time in my opinion.

There was one obvious drawback that became glaringly obvious as the night wore on. Critical mass.

To do an event in a public space, you have to have a lot of people moving through there. The event definitely had it’s dead moments, something that I don’t think would have happened if we would invest properly in bringing in retail and service on Front St.

I take issue with Front being called a “dining and entertainment district.” In my opinion, it’s not what we want. I’m reminded of one of our Strong Towns “challenges:” If you’re largest employer left, would your town be ok?

Same with a downtown-if food and alcohol suddenly skyrocketed, would your downtown be ok?  Ours? Barely.

We need to work on getting lots of retail and services down on Front St. and the surrounding areas, we’re getting there, but not fast enough. A diverse downtown means a strong downtown.

Anyway, it was a success.

My thoughts for next year:

  • More Mario Kart.
  • Warmer Day
  • More screens and games
  • Something to jazz it up, I don’t know…

I’m sure we’ll do it again and have everything work smoother.


Thanks to everyone who came out and enjoyed it and a special thanks to Joey, who literally saved our butts and then sat around all night playing video games in the cold.

About Matthias Leyrer

Matthias Leyrer is a resident of Mankato looking to restore a fraction of its old glory. He writes about the economic, aesthetic, practical and financial issues facing the city of Mankato going forward.