Proposed Veterans Memorial Site Stirs Up Debate In Rochester

ROCHESTER (WCCO) — It is a museum that is meant to honor all Minnesota veterans. But building the museum has turned into a battle of its own at Soldiers Field Park in Rochester.

Korean War Veteran Bob Dewitz took on the mission years ago to build the Soldiers Field Veterans Memorial. It is a huge wall with the names of soldiers that did not survive and blocks with names of service men and woman who have served.

The vision now has moved on to build a museum to honor all Minnesota service members in the same park.

Tom Hosier is the President of the Minnesota Veterans Museum and is one of the leaders behind the project.

“People have told us it should be within walking distance of the memorial and that’s what we want to happen,” Hosier said.

The plan has been in the works for years. The board would like a three story, 60,000 square foot museum. It would take up about an acre-and-a-half of the park’s 40-acre space.

Nancy Slocumb is one of dozens of neighbors drawing the battle lines and opposes the project.

“I was alerted by our neighborhood association. I was just appalled,” Slocumb said.

Slocumb has nothing against honoring our troops. Instead, she is fighting to protect their park.

“We’d really like to keep that as a green space and if we can help them find another place,” Slocumb said.

The city has heard from others with traffic and noise concerns. The museum board knows it won’t be able to please everyone.

Dewitz is looking for a truce with the hope his memorial will finally get the museum he believes Minnesotans deserve.

“It makes me feel better when the people I don’t know comment on how beautiful it is,” Dewitz said.

There is a long-term study underway to figure out what will be best for the park. That could take until next year. The museum board said it would consider other options in Rochester, but again it thinks the best place would be at Soldiers Field.

The museum is looking for soldiers to share their stories to put in the museum.  If you have information you can e-mail Tom Hosier or Joe Adamson.

More from Liz Collin
  • Proposed Veterans Memorial Site Stirs Up Debate In Rochester « CBS Minnesota

    […] But building the museum has turned into a battle of its own at Soldiers Field Park in Rochester. Check out Liz Collin’s report. Share this article No comments […]

  • Sharon

    The links to contact two men about the proposal does not work!

  • Stu

    Really?, someone is “appalled” an acre and a half out of 40 would be used as a museum to honor men and women who gave the last full measure. Wow. Common sense would dictate the museum would be in close proximity to the memorial. This lady is “not against honoring troops, but protecting our park” It just should be in someone else’s backyard. Nice. Protect the park from what?, those loud, obnoxious crowds that come to honor soldier hero’s? Come on. This is sad.

  • hunnybear18

    She’s probably one of those bra burners that spit on the Vietnam vets.

  • What the heck..

    Nancy Slocumb sounds like a greedy, self-centered individual with no respect for veterans, alive or dead. Isn’t that the way it always is… or a few people will hold up or halt a project that is good and just, because of their near-sightedness!

  • American

    OMG! THere are morons in Rochester! Honor those who have servered or move to canada!

  • Al

    You know, I always thought our country was a democracy where the majority rules. The majority loves the idea. BUILD IT!!! if a few don’t like it, to bad, deal with it.

  • Dave P

    She is one who probably complains about airport noise too, even though the airport was there before she was born.

    • Wayne

      This story did not really do justice to the issue. The issue at hand is not whether or not to build it, it is its proposed location. First off the total space being asked for is 5 acres not 1 and the local neighbors are not against building the museum near the existing veteran’s memorial. Literally across the street from the memorial are commercial lots that are available for development/redevelopment but the people behind the museum do not want to have to have to actually purchase any land, they want land for free. Also the area where they are proposing building will bulldoze one of only two public ball fields for miles. It is also directly across from a new children’s playground. Is it wise to bring 60 to 100 thousand people, in buses and cars, down a narrow two lane street next to a playground?

      The area of Rochester where this park is located is undergoing some major redevelopment. This proposed museum can very easily be located within 1 block of the existing memorial, in an already commercial area without needing to bulldoze the park land, the developers of the museum simply do not want to pay for land. Ironically the park was given to the city in the 1920’s, was dedicated by president Rosevelt, under the provision that it be used as open public space forever. The local legion has actually gone to court, and won, to fight to preserve it from development in the past. These are just a few of the facts behind neighborhood opposition to the proposed building location. Hopefully WCCO will do a better job of giving you the whole story next time.

  • Trudy

    The museum should be built underground with the green space preserved. How about it???

  • Cindy

    Wayne- They should not have to purchase commercial land, it is to honor our Veterans, which without them, we would have no land!

  • Wayne

    Cindy, the backers of the museum are free to approach any land owner in the vicinity of the existing veterans monument for a donation of land. There may very well be a parking lot owner or building owner who would want their land redeveloped into the museum.

    Again the argument from the people who live near the park is that the proposed location is inappropriate for such a building. We here in Rochester are honoring our veterans, we have a memorial park and probably the most beautiful veterans monument in the state. Also for clarification the 40 acres of the existing park is not all open space. Most of the park is developed and includes the existing veterans monument, an 18 hole golf course, a swimming pool , 2 playgrounds, 2 ball diamonds and a running track.

    I have veterans in my family, as do many people, and I have heard from veterans about this issue. None of them want to bulldoze the ball park to make way for a museum honoring themselves. Everyone of them would rather see the ballpark filled with kids playing ball, practicing their swing or just playing catch. That is something they went to war to defend. If any of you reading this can find a veteran who is willing to come down to Rochester and explain to the the kids playing in this park why they are losing it to a museum honoring themselves, the veterans that is, please send em down. I have yet to be able to find one. Veterans will be equally honored with a museum 1 block away and this way when people are finished going through the museum, having just seen the sacrifices our veterans have made, they can walk over to the park and see first hand what the vets of our country were fighting for.



  • mike

    Al, I always thought of our country as a republic with a democratically elected government.

    Even though our country allows people to ignorantly call the mother of a US soldier a “greedy self-centered individual with no respect for veterans”, the country still helps people stay safe from groups that try to degrade them by questioning their sense of patriotism.

    The folks in Rochester who pay property taxes understand this as an issue of whether it’s proper or legal to parcel a public park to a private group. It’s an impractical and inappropriate setting for a museum of any kind. So as we try to honor vets and find a way to accommodate the project, please spare us the jingoistic rhetoric.

    Ironically, the museum would supplant park space that abuts two urban blocks consisting of three vacant business properties, a VFW and a space that displays the “Statue of a World War II Soldier”. Has the Veteran’s Museum Committee investigated this site as an alternative? Would the city, Mayo Clinic, the Rochester Downtown Business Alliance, and the University of Minnesota consider the site in the Rochester Downtown Master Plan? It’s within the planned zone and it’s about a 30 second walk the existing Veteran’s Memorial; the folks who run the VFW, and the vets who hang out there might welcome the revitalization of this tired business zone.

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