Anyone familiar with Duluth knows the seasonality of its attractions. Once the summer tourists and leaf-peepers have made their exits, it’s time for locals to emerge out into area businesses for food, drink, and entertainment. Some businesses draw large crowds, some shutter the doors until spring. Making the decision which way to go is difficult, unless someone offers you a built-in customer base.
Not so long ago Grandma’s Sports Garden found itself at that very point, weighing the options of staying open or closing for the winter. It took the vision and talent of a local businessman to offer them the solution and customers they sought. Knowing some of the entertainers The Garden had booked in the past, Chuck Horton began to scout it as a venue for his pro boxing matches.
Having built up a solid following for boxing across the bridge in Superior, Wisconsin, Horton wanted a way to bring that momentum and the accompanying revenue stream into his home town. He approached Brian Daugherty to see if there was a mutually beneficial opportunity of Horton bringing his talent into The Garden. Thus began a seven year relationship between the two that has definitely proven successful for both.
Much like lining up the card for a rock concert, boxing headliners need support acts, too. Although most fans are attending to see the pros and the main event, friends and family flock to these events to watch the rookies getting their start as openers. It’s the perfect way for amateurs to get used to fighting in front of larger crowds, and the fans get to see new talent.
Horton knew not just any venue would work for his shows. While many big names like Trampled by Turtles and Hairball have performed at The Garden, a boxing ring is not as easily accommodated as a music stage. The room needed to be cleared out to bring in the massive 22’ x 22’ ring and set it up as the focus of the space. Not to mention the lighting, sound, and private athletes’ rooms required for the complete experience.
The venue definitely proved satisfactory. Horton’s Gym brought in record-breaking funds in food and beverage for them on Thursdays. The Garden was packed with fans of all ages. Tables were set up for the judges and officials and a large V.I.P. section was arranged. Horton has handed the reigns over to former pro boxer Zach Walters. Time will tell if the partnership remains successful, but the stars certainly seem aligned.