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Ninja Warrior course planned for New Ulm

Optimist Club President Michael Henle, St. Paul Lutheran School Principal Pete Markgraf, and Optimist Club Secretary Liz Altmann (L-R) stand with a $30,000 check from the Optimist Club. The check is representative of donations the Optimist Club has made over two years toward a ninja course playground.

NEW ULM — A Ninja Warrior course in New Ulm? That’s the plan from St. Paul’s Lutheran School and the Optimist Club.

The project idea was presented to St. Paul’s principal Pete Markgraf four years ago by someone in the playground industry. Markgraf said after looking into the project, a chance run-in with Optimist Club Secretary Liz Altmann set everything in motion.

“One day I happened to walk into the school office while I was looking at it and we talked about it by chance,” he said. “She said ‘We’ve been looking for a project like that for the Optimist Club.’ From there, she and I have worked together ever since then to get it to where it is now.”

The Optimist Club has donated $30,000 to the project over the last two years. Altmann said the Optimist Club considers this to be a legacy project; something to keep on giving in the community well into the future.

“We do a lot of work with youth in our community, and we support a huge variety of different causes,” she said. “Health and wellness is one of the core areas we like to support. This falls into that well. It’s also a really fun thing. There are a lot of benefits to it physically and mentally. It’s fun for a group of kids often not served as well unless they’re in sports. Not every kid wants to be in sports or can afford to do so. This is a community resource that would be available to everybody.”

Modeled after athletic competitions like American Ninja Warrior, this is a render of what the course is expected to look like when it is completed. Principal Markgraf said the school would like the building process to begin summer 2024, but they need $20,000 to do so.

From the school side, Markgraf said the current playground situation does not engage the kids as well as they used to. Especially for the middle schools, Markgraf believes a Ninja course will provide better entertainment and exercise. The course will be an addition to the space, not replacing any of the current structures and play equipment.

From the community side, Markgraf believes the Ninja course could bring a whole new element to what’s currently available for the kids and adults in New Ulm. Markgraf used the example of kids brought along to youth tournaments as an example of the course’s potential usefulness.

“There are fields over at the public school across the road and several fields here that host tournaments, evening games, and practices,” he said. “Parents often bring their children who aren’t in [the sport] to watch the game or hang out because they don’t need a babysitter at home. This [Ninja course] will be an advantage because the proximity is so close parents can trust their kids are on a playground and having fun, no matter which field they’re at.”

The current plan is to construct the course during the summer of 2024. To do so, the school needs $20,000 more in funding. Markgraf said they are hoping to get funding from other organizations and community members. If they do not get the funding by April, Markgraf said they will receive another round of funding from the Optimist Club and start construction summer of 2025.

Those interested in learning more or donating can inquire by calling 507-354-2329 or emailing school@splnewulm.org. Donations can be sent to 126 South Payne Street.

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