The Elk River Rotary Club has participated in a number of community projects and fund raising activities throughout the years. The largest project to date ever undertaken by the club has been the restoration of Elk River's Historic Handke Stadium. The documentation of that and other activities have been achieved by the Elk River Star News for the community and the Elk River Rotary Club. The articles can be accessed by clicking on the link below. Read about the history, activities and progress of the Handke Stadium Restoration as told by the reporters of the Elk River Star News.

Elk River Star News

Taste of Elk River -
Proceeds from the May 11, 2006 Taste of Elk River enabled The Elk River Rotary Club to complete preservation of the historic Elkhi (Handke) Stadium bowl in the center of the community.
Tom McNair, past president of the Elk River Rotary club, said proceeds exceeded the $15,000 needed from the May 11 event to complete the stonework on the east and south walls. The Rotary Club raised close to $300,000 to restore the warming house and stone retaining walls built in 1939-40.

Once a worn-out play area overgrown with brush and called by some the pit, this restored stadium has been named to the National Register of Historic Places.
Susan Roth, the National Register Historian, said , It represents a concerted community effort to provide an outdoor stadium three times over, and what's so nice is it really represents a stadium from an earlier era.


The Elkhi Stadium story began in 1921 when volunteers turned a natural amphitheater into a playing field. In1939 and 1940, WPA crews built steps to the stadium floor, laid stone retaining walls on all four sides and built a stone warming house with a fireplace. .
For years, Elkhi Stadium was the place for high school football and hockey games, physical education classes, band concerts and homecoming bonfires. During the winter, kids sledded down the hills and skated on the village only ice rink.


Over the years, however, the facility began to show its age. The warming house was so worn out it had to be closed. The stone walls began to crumble , the steps became unsafe and the hillsides became overgrown with weeds and brush. Some irreverently began to call it the pit.
When a resident suggested the stadium should be filled with dirt to level it for development, the community protested and defeated that suggestion.
In the year 2000,,the District 728 School Board did not have the funds to repair the stadium. At that same time, a committee of the Elk River Rotary Club, seeking a long-term community project, recommended the club restore the historic site.


Since then, the complex has a new warming house with gas fire place, almost all of the wall has been replaced with stone, the steps have been repaired, old light poles have come down, new wiring has been installed and the area has been re-landscaped. A stone plaza containing the Rotary Club seal has been built at one of the entrances. The original Handke school bell hangs in that plaza.
The restoration is almost completed, and as a result, the stadium has been entered into the National Register of Historic Places, which means it is considered worthy of preservation.
How the club raised the funds is a remarkable story.


The committees first chair, Dr. David Flannery, a Rotarian and the Superintendent of Schools, organized the first fund-raising, resulting in grants from the Minnesota Historical Society, the 728 School Board, the Three Rivers Community Foundation and Great River Energy.

The Elk River Rotary Club initially committed $10,000 to the project.

Tom McNair, chair of the fund-raising, says $100,000 was generated by selling pavers for a plaza ,two different paintings of the stadium and Handke Hankies, along with donations from businesses, service clubs, banks and individuals.

Alumni from the classes of 1945 to 1966 who went to Handke school bought paintings and generously contributed dollars.

Two expert stone masons, Greg Johnson and Heath Lacroix, used donated stone boulders to re-build the warming house and repair the walls.

McNair's committee is raising the last $60,000 to rebuild a retaining wall, add a safety rail, repair two more stairways and install period lighting along both stairways. Restoration of this stadium into a park-like setting fits the community plan to have the Handke school become a family and arts center.

Among those who have led the stadium back to glory are Rotarians McNair, Flannery, Don Heinzman, Jim Boyle ,Lynn Caswell, Cliff Lundberg, Doug Johnson, Deb Urista and photographer Tony Mikols.

Caswell remarked, I'm impressed. I never imagined we would be able to put together the kind of resources we have. It's awesome for an individual club. McNair could not be more pleased. This project fits our mission to serve the community while giving our club good visibility. Young families love it because it's a place for kids and older people look at it with fond memories.

Article in the Star and Tribune highlighting Rotary.