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Wrestler Rowdy Roddy Piper to invest in historic Fergus Falls property's redevelopment

Fergus Falls Mayor Hal Leland, left, spends some time with pro wrestler Rowdy Roddy Piper in front of the closed Regional Treatment center on Tuesday. Marie Noplos / Fergus Falls Daily Journal

FERGUS FALLS, Minn. – Wrestler, actor and historic building investor Rowdy Roddy Piper came to Fergus Falls on Tuesday with developer Ray Willey to look at the former Regional Treatment Center and propose revisions to the redevelopment project at the City Council meeting.

Piper has held 38 wrestling titles and was one of the most well-known heels of Hulk Hogan. He starred in No. 1 box office hit “They Live” and published a best-selling autobiography in 2003. While he still has a passion for wrestling, his focus has turned to preserving history.

“How are we to know where we come from if we don’t preserve our history?” Piper asked. “Especially something like this. That’s why Ray gave me a call, and I decided to fly down and take a look for myself last night.”

Piper and Willey have been friends for more than a decade, and the two occasionally work together on investment projects, they said.

Piper will fit into the redevelopment project by becoming part owner of a proposed sports bar, and Willey said he expects other athletes he partners with to join in as well.

“It’s the kind of thing in the summertime where this could be huge for business and for the city,” Piper said.

Mayor Hal Leland met with Piper and Willey in front of the Kirkbride building Tuesday morning.

“We know Fergus Falls has a bright future when we have people like this invest in the community,” Leland said. “We have to be as supportive as we can. It’s a new era we can all look forward to.”

Support from the community is crucial to the redevelopment project, and bringing in Piper is an opportunity for the firm to cross promote, Willey said.

“We have had wide, broad-based support from the community. We just couldn’t make things work if there was not that kind of support,” he said.

Divide and conquer

FERGUS FALLS, Minn. – Divide and conquer. That’s the new plan for the $41.4 million Regional Treatment Center redevelopment project.

Developer Ray Willey of Historic Kirkbride presented a modified plan at Tuesday night’s City Council meeting that includes splitting the massive project into two phases.

“We want to do everything but the hotel in Phase 1,” Willey said.

The following are projects expected to take place in the first phase.

  • The west wing of the RTC will be turned into about 70 apartments.
  • The kitchen and cafeteria area will be transformed into five restaurants and a culinary academy.
  • The gym will be restored and the basement will be converted to a fitness center for apartment residents and hotel guests.
  • The memorial building will be turned into general offices.
  • A large building behind the Kirkbride will be repurposed into a community workshop space for artists.

Once the RTC is turned over to the investment firm, Phase 1 is expected to take about two years, putting the expected completion date sometime in 2018.

Phase 2 would take about another two years, and it would be all focused on the “upper upscale” hotel.

By splitting the project into two pieces, Historic Kirkbride will have the chance to overlap building and planning. When projects begin on the first phase, the firm can begin planning the details of the second phase, Willey said.

“We have done hundreds of apartments and dozens of restaurants, but we have never done a project this big, and we have never done a hotel,” he said.

The firm thought carefully about what would work in Fergus Falls, and after a feasibility study and discussing ideas with consultants, the group came to the conclusion that a hotel would be a good option, Willey said.

While the public was given a brief update on the proposed changes to the project, a more extensive presentation was made at a closed session after the public meeting was adjourned.