Gasoline Alley: Blaine, MN

June 1, 2009

Let’s face it, when you’re 12 years old, you have a lot of stress in your life. Your report on “The Voyage of the Mimi” is due on Wednesday. On Thursday, they’re separating the boys and girls to teach us about public hair and penises – OMG how embarrassing! You still have to hit up a few houses in the neighborhood to sell pricey gift wrap for the school FUNdraiser (vinyl duffel bag, you will be mine!). And on top of all that, during computer lab time, your classmate Jessica died of dysentery in Oregon Trail. …Meh, she was a bitch. More food for the rest of us! *presses space bar to continue”

Gasoline Alley!

Gasoline Alley!

‘Ya gotta have a way to blow off that steam and during trying times like these, swinging from the monkey bars and playing tag just won’t cut it. Going for a long drive to clear your head would be ideal but you’re still three years away from your learner’s permit. What else could you do to ease your troubles? Badger your parents to take you to Gasoline Alley!

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This place just looks creepy now

Located in Blaine off of Highway 65 next to a trailer park community, Gasoline Alley was one of those mini amusement parks with go-karts, mini golf, bumper boats, and an arcade. It’s the kind of place where a kid could be a kid (the same could be said about Vegas, but I digress). These types of mini family fun rec areas were pretty popular in the ‘80s and ‘90s, but you really don’t see these places around much anymore. Lilliputt is still in business, but whenever I drive by the place, it’s empty. What, kids these days would rather play Mario Kart or mini golf on the WII? The WII is great and all but nothing can beat planning your perfect hole-in-one shot by aiming your dirty neon orange golf ball at a fiberglass rhino’s tusk…have it ricochet off the wall and go through the windmill tunnel and into the hole…only to have your whole strategy foiled by a ruptured seam in the Astroturf. Seams don’t happen on a WII.

I don’t know when this place closed. Looking at it now, the place just looks spooky but back in its glory days, Gasoline Alley (much like Skateland) was a big elementary/middle school birthday party and field trip destination in the ‘80s and ‘90s.

We didn’t get to go to Gasoline Alley as much as we went to LilliPutt. It was either because LilliPutt was closer and/or Gasoline Alley was too expensive. Both amusement centers offered the same attractions, but Gasoline Alley was bigger and known for its go-kart track (though calling itself an “international raceway” is a bit of a stretch). Looking at it through adult eyes, it looks awfully lame. I couldn’t tell where the bumper boats used to be, the go kart track looks tiny, and the either they removed all the giant mini golf statues (except the windmill) or Gasoline Alley took a minimalist approach to mini golf and didn’t have any fiberglass animals. What’s the point of playing mini golf without a plastic yellow hippo giving you the stinkeye as you putt for par on hole #14?

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The chain-link fence keeps the trash out. Literally.

Usually when my brother would pester Mom to bring him here, she would usually tell him no and to go ride his Big Wheel or play with his Micro Machines instead. On those rare occasions (i.e. his birthday) when my parents actually would bring my brother here (and a bunch of his friends), I would always tag along. I didn’t care much for go-karts, but like any kid, I did enjoy a game of mini golf (it really helped my short game!) or bumper boats to pass the time.

Gasoline Alley provided golden opportunities to bring out the wild child in any well-behaved kid. On the track, my brother would always try to side-swipe his buddy’s car to thwart him from winning the race. Out on the high seas of the bumper boat lagoon, I’d always try to ram my watercraft (which looked like an inflatable inner tube with a steering wheel & a cheap trolling motor) into some random unsuspecting stranger’s vessel and give them whiplash.

No need to sneer at me, you crybaby! Tough shit. This is bumper boats, not the fucking lazy river. Pushing and shoving with a side of whiplash is to be expected.

Trouble didn’t take a holiday on the links either. Kids have a short attention span, and after about 12 holes of putt-putt, let’s face it, you get bored and all the holes start looking the same (that’s what she said?) One hole has a slight hill and a giant spider. The next has a giant rocks that are supposed to resemble landmines and a water hazard to the right.  Rinse and repeat. There’s only so many times you can get your ball stuck in a tube that’s filled with dead leaves and candy wrappers before you get frustrated. So it was around this point in the course where hitting the fiberglass tiger square in the eye with your golf ball was much more entertaining than actually trying to make par on the hole and pencil in a decent score.

The windmill was the only mini golf statue left behind

The windmill was the only mini golf statue left behind

But even that got boring after a while. Sure, the loud “ping” the ball made when it hit the statue was a riot, but sometimes, you need to cause a little more mischief.  If you wanted to add insult to injury to the helpless synthetic beast, you could reach in your pocket and pull out anything with a sharp edge (utility knife, an well-worn slap bracelet, a fork) and carve an “I love Brian!” tattoo on the unfortunate tiger’s cheek.  So many of the fiberglass monuments had innocent teenage graffiti on their plastic bodies and unfortunately, I admit to doing this once (sorry, I don’t know if it was at Gasoline Alley or at Lilli Putt).

Whatever. The fucker was looking at me funny. He deserved it. Besides, he looked like a kill-azz muthafucka with my wicked ink job.

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Back in the day, this place was infested with kids

So, what about the go-kart track? Well, looking at it now, it doesn’t look like anything special. Calling itself an “International Raceway” is a bit misleading – this isn’t the Indy 500. It’s just another loud and annoying go-kart track filled with screaming kids and mid-life crisis dads who wanting to take a quick break from their giant SUV with ample seating and an excellent safety rating and pretend to be Jeff Gordan for a few short minutes. The course itself looks like it had a slight hill to it, with lots hairpin turns allowing for chain-reaction braking and no acceleration lanes – what, did MNDOT design the track?

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A view of the building

Gasoline Alley had an arcade so when you’ve had enough racing, bumper boating, and destroying the landscaping around the mini golf course, you could try to play some video games and hope they didn’t eat your quarters. The game room was pretty decrepit and had outdated games like Burger Time and shitty crap like a Love Calculator. On the arcade games that worked, you’d have to be a very good player to beat the computer; not because the artificial intelligence was set for super hard, but because your character was constantly walking to the right when you clearly were thrusting the sticky joystick to the left. And the “A” button had a coating of dried up soda all over it.

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A view of the finish line. If Gasoline Alley was around today, I’d come here and coast into the finish line, step out of my ride,  rip my helmet off and shake out my hair, just like Danica Patrick.

They also had a snack bar that had the shittiest food known to man. Yeah, I know, it’s a kiddie amusement park, so you can’t expect gourmet food, but the overpriced grub here was worse than SuperAmerica food. Decade-old wrinkled hot dogs on spinning on rollers, Totinos Party Pizzas cooked in a microwave, and a dessert cooler filled Flintstone Push Up Pops, Chipwiches, and those chocolate malt cups with the little wooden paddle spoon.

Okay, I admit, those desserts are pretty good…I could really go for a Chipwich right now.

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Another pic of Gasoline Alley

Any memories of Gasoline Alley? Share in the comments!

Photos taken May 2009.

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18 Responses to Gasoline Alley: Blaine, MN

  1. Ang on June 2, 2009 at 10:29 AM

    Interesting that you post this… I remember going there as a child – had a blast!

    I found your blog in a Google Search and decided to keep reading, I like what you’ve done here.

    I heard they are thinking of opening a Sonic (a sit down Sonic) on Gasoline Alley’s site. I wonder if that means mini-golf and go-karts will run once again!?

  2. Davis on June 3, 2009 at 12:01 PM

    I never went to Gasoline Alley, but I remember the commercials on TV and wanted to go. But my parents took me to the BP Circus Circus instead claiming it was good enough.

  3. Disco Studd on June 3, 2009 at 12:07 PM

    I think GA closed ~10 years ago. Although (surprisingly) they haven’t redeveloped the site yet, they sell Christmas Trees out of its parking lot every holiday season.

    I say “surprisingly” because they’ve redeveloped damn near every parcel of land on that stretch of 65 (Menard’s, Kohl’s, and SuperTarget on the “New Blaine” side of 65, Holiday, Space Aliens, Brunswick Zone, and townhomes on the “Old Blaine” side of 65.)

    Anyways, aside from the building that housed the arcade and snack bar, everything at LilliPutt is vastly superior to what GA had. GA’s bumper boats? Bitch, please! LilliPutt has a waterfall you can force your “enemies” under! GA’s mini-golf course? My momma always told me if I had nothing nice to say about somebody or something not to say it, so I won’t. The track at GA was actually better than LilliPutt’s track, but their cars were so slow that it made you feel like you were stuck behind an old gray-hair-in-a-Camry on I-94 on a Sunday afternoon.

    LilliPutt 3, Gasoline Alley 0!

    Ooh, and another reason LP is still in business? THEY HAVE WI-FI!!! Yeah, I know Wi-Fi didn’t exist when GA went out of business, but I’m just saying. I was kinda shocked when we took our niece and nephew there a couple of years ago with the ole laptop in tow to find out they had a Wi-Fi hookup…

    • dumpystripmalls on June 3, 2009 at 12:41 PM

      @DiscoStudd – LOL! YES! That’s right, Lilli Putt has a waterfall! It’s hard to keep Lilli Putt and GA straight in my memory. It’s been so long since I’ve been to either one of them.

      I’m planning on doing an entry about LilliPutt just as soon as I have the chance to make it over there and play a round of mini golf. Since it’s still open, I might as well experience the place for myself & see how much (or how little) it’s changed. I always liked Lilli Putt SO much more than GA.

  4. Spaz on June 3, 2009 at 10:10 PM

    Always wanted to go to GA as a kid, only ever went to Liliput (for b-day parties and stuff). Didn’t realize GA was so dumpy!

    You should do an entry on the Spring Lake Park “Amusement” Park on hwy 10, the mini-golf course with the big dinosaur and stuff around it.

    +1 for the Voyage of the Mimi reference.

  5. Disco Studd on June 3, 2009 at 10:40 PM

    LilliPutt is exactly the same as it was 25+ years ago, including the same crappy arcade games inside that narrow little building where you buy the tickets to the mini-golf and the bumper boats.

    Good one, Spaz! Spring Lake Park Amusements had/has a killer mini-golf course. Man, I remember the first time my dad took me and my brother there (22-23 years ago.) We rode the water slides (remember those? They built a “volcano” where they once sat) for 2 hours straight, then we played a round of mini-golf and I won a free round when I sank a hole-in-one on the 18th hole. I remember my impatient dad sitting in the car while my brother and I played another round of golf! He probably would’ve left us there if I sank another hole-in-one.

    Reminiscing about Gasoline Alley, I remember one summer when I went there with a gang of friends, my one friend’s girlfriend was too ascared to wide on the big baddy waddy go-cart cawrs. Well after we heckled her for a solid 15 minutes, my friend (her boyfriend) went up to the track announcer when we got in the cars and had him point her out (she was standing up on the bridge that crossed over the track) when our race started and told everybody to yell her name and wave at her as we passed by. Needless to say, she asked to ride in a different car than him when we left out of there. I think they didn’t speak for a week after that. Personally I thought it was hilarious…

  6. Beth on June 5, 2009 at 3:05 PM

    Ooh yes, Spring Lake Amusement Park! I spent some time there in my day – I always thought they had a more fun course because of the stupid cartoony set-ups on each hole. Lilliputt was awesome because of the go karts though, couldn’t beat that! I think I went to Gasoline Alley once. SO many of these posts are taking me back to my childhood, we must be around the same age!

  7. Jonah N on June 8, 2009 at 10:15 AM

    “Public hair”? Umm…the L…

  8. Jeremy H on June 19, 2009 at 11:46 AM

    I remember going here for a birthday party for my brother. The go carts going under that pedestrian bridge, watching my Mom and Dad cheer me on as I pass the finish line.

    I remember those bumper boats and as a kid, I adjusted the throttle to give it a boost of speed. The teenager supervisor caught on to this and made me pull over and get in another boat. LAME.

  9. chris a on June 21, 2009 at 1:25 AM

    I remember those days… i drive by the place alot (johns auto parts is down the block) and everytime i see it i remember standing in line hoping i could pass the height requirement… as for the go- carts being a part of sonic. i work for border foods (the company that owns the sonic restaraunts in minnesota and also owns every pizza hut and taco bell in the state) and i couldnt see them affording any… but it would be sweet if they did

  10. Marc on June 29, 2009 at 8:32 PM

    Does anyone know the actual story of why GA closed? I’ve heard a number of rumors through the years (The owners wife died, there where gambling debts, could no longer afford the insurance and, my favorite, “a guy had his arm ripped off after crashing his gocart and sued the owners) but I’ve never heard the definative reason. I loved GA too! I hate to see it in its delapitated state.

  11. chris on November 15, 2010 at 4:03 PM

    i would like to talk to the owner and open that place back up..

  12. Carl Foster on February 21, 2012 at 12:38 PM

    I lived in the trailer park when Gasoline Alley opened. Wow this brings back a lot of memories. I had a lot of great times there racing with my dad and brother. Never got to drive the super fast car, but dad did!

  13. Codi on July 2, 2012 at 1:27 PM

    Gasoline Alley used to have a little ferris wheel (assuming I’m remembering the correct place). We were there the day they “unveiled” the ferris wheel and got to be the first ones to ride on it.

  14. B-dogg on July 21, 2012 at 11:37 PM

    I drove by there today and they MIGHT be tearing it down. There was some sort of demolition equipment on the property. You should get some more pictures because nature’s really taken over there.

  15. anonymous on August 22, 2012 at 2:20 AM

    i did some research on gasoline alley today as i drove by remembering how empty it is. The owner was Marvin s Bloom died July 21, 2009. at the age of 72 he was the proprietor of Gasoline Alley in Blaine. Very curious now who owns it and whats gunna happen to that abondanded place?

  16. NIck on September 4, 2012 at 11:36 AM

    We went there once, but it was significant because I had flown up from Pittsburgh to be with this girl I met on the internet. It was our last stop on the way to the airport to fly back home (she was in Cambridge). It was the best of times… it was the worst of times. Best of times because we were together, worst of times because I was on my way back home.

    Here I am 15 years later, we are married, have 2 kids (one more on the way), I went through college at the U of M and now work for Anoka County, and I have the Gasoline Alley gaming token from that day hanging on my cubicle.

  17. Pseudo3D on September 30, 2012 at 1:27 PM

    Public hair?

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